Random bisexual forests: Intersections between gender, sexuality, and race in /s/ production





bisexuality, random forests, research practice, /s/-fronting, center of gravity, sexuality and the voice


The ideology of “the gay lisp” has inspired numerous quantitative studies examining the relationship between /s/ production and sexuality in American English (e.g. Linville 1998; Munson et al. 2006a; Zimman 2013). There are two key gaps in this literature. First, research in this area typically focuses on monosexual (i.e. lesbian, gay, and straight) speakers to the exclusion of bisexuality. Second, work in this area rarely considers the intersection of sexuality with factors outside of gender or sex, and to a lesser extent geographic location (e.g. Campbell-Kibler 2011; Podesva & Hofwegen 2014). This article addresses these disparities by (1) centralizing bisexual speakers and (2) attending to social factors such as race, place, age, and their intersections in the analysis. To that end, we build upon previous work by Willis (forthcoming) and apply a random forest (Breiman 2001) to /s/ center of gravity measurements. In doing so, we follow Tagliamonte and Baayen (2012) in demonstrating the utility of random forests as an approach to quantitative sociolinguistic analysis. Ultimately, the analysis underscores the need to attend to power structures and biases within research practice: the monosexist ideologies of sexuality and gender normativity that obfuscate bisexuality, and the privileging of whiteness that permeates quantitative studies of sexuality and the voice.




How to Cite

Willis, Chloe, and Chadi Ben Youssef. 2023. “Random Bisexual Forests: Intersections Between Gender, Sexuality, and Race in S Production”. Proceedings of the Linguistic Society of America 8 (1): 5504. https://doi.org/10.3765/plsa.v8i1.5504.