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Remapping the contours of language, gender/sexuality, and childhood

Nonnenmacher, Sean Robert (2023) Remapping the contours of language, gender/sexuality, and childhood. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation investigates the relationship among language, gender/sexuality, and childhood through a digital and sociolinguistic ethnography with a national nonprofit organization, GLSEN. GLSEN’s mission is to ensure K-12 schools provide safe and affirming spaces for LGBTQ+ students, through interventions with educators, students, parents, policymakers, and community members. My embeddedness within the organization comes from three years of ethnographic fieldwork with four local GLSEN chapters (Arizona, Mid-Hudson, Tennessee, and Washington) while coordinating a queer oral history project, the StoryBank, and assisting GLSEN Arizona with policy and public advocacy efforts.

My approach is primarily qualitative and discourse analytic and secondarily quantitative and variationist. My analysis focuses on constructed speech, or instances of quoted speech and reported speech, which emerge frequently in narratives told by LGBTQ+ youth and adults involved with GLSEN, as well as in comments made by Arizona lawmakers as they discuss two anti-queer bills during the 2022 legislative session. First, I consider broad discursive and acoustic patterns of constructed speech in StoryBank interviews with 19 LGBTQ+ adults as they narrate events from their childhoods, school experiences as students, and experiences working with the organization. Second, I focus in greater detail on intra-speaker or stylistic shifts that make quoted speech more distinctive than non-quoted speech, on average, in an organizational interview with one LGBTQ+ student leader (from a larger set of 20 Gender Sexuality Alliance student leader interviews). Third, I explore how Arizona lawmakers, in seven hours of legislative hearings, use constructed speech animations of children to ground their policy positions in imaginings about everyday interactions between children and adults.

My analysis finds that (1) constructed speech allows narrators to engage in embedded or multidimensional forms of stancetaking; (2) acoustic distinctiveness of quoted speech may coincide with and be prompted by narrative affect; and (3) constructed speech animations of children authorize and legitimate lawmakers’ arguments about anti-LGBTQ+ bills. These findings are contextualized in relation to the linguistic individual (Johnstone, 1996) and the developmental imperative and heterosexual market (Eckert, 2000).


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Nonnenmacher, Sean Robertsen40@pitt.edusen400000-0002-5246-200X
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairKiesling,
Committee MemberPark,
Committee MemberGodley,
Committee MemberGill-Peterson,
Date: 15 May 2023
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 28 March 2023
Approval Date: 15 May 2023
Submission Date: 5 April 2023
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 242
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Linguistics
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Sociolinguistics, LGBTQ+ childhoods, nonprofit organizations, oral history, narrative, style, discourse analysis
Date Deposited: 15 May 2023 18:12
Last Modified: 15 May 2023 18:12


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