Joelle Kirtley


Research and Interests

My dissertation is entitled “Language, Identity, and Non-Binary Gender in Hawai’i.” It examines how three individuals in Hawai’i who were assigned female sex at birth and identify on the masculine spectrum use linguistic resources to construct their gender identities and convey that identity to others. The contributions of my dissertation include a close examination of linguistic stylistics in natural contexts, an approach that combines many methodologies to achieve more comprehensive understanding, and a challenge to views of gender as binary and masculinity as homogenous.

My research before my dissertation had two focuses: Hawai’i English and experimental methods in sociolinguistics.

  • I have been working with a group of colleagues (Katie Drager, James Grama, and Sean Simpson) to describe the dialect of English that is spoken in Hawai’i by collecting interview data (a task that many other researchers have also helped with) and using acoustic analysis to describe variation in the production of vowels. I have also described some of the intonational contours that are used in Hawai’i, both in Pidgin and in Hawai’i English.
  • My thesis was entitled “Speech in the U.S. Military: A Sociophonetic Perception Approach to Identity and Meaning,” and in it, I used experimental perception techniques to examine how linguistic variables are perceived or not perceived as being associated with people who have served in the Military. You can view this Thesis here. I have also used similar experimental methods (The Matched-Guise Technique) to examine associations between pitch and attractiveness.

Going forward, I hope to use experimental methods again in combination with the ethnographic and discourse analytic tools that I used in my dissertation in order to examine other research questions. I believe that a combination of powerful methodological approaches strengthens the work of a researcher. I am generally interested, going forward, in questions about how much control speakers have over their use of socially-meaningful variation and how aware they are of its use, how children learn and begin to practice social variation, and what kind of cognitive models best fit with what we know to be true of sociolinguistic behavior.



I have spent the last nine years as a teacher and hope that I can continue to teach for the rest of my life. I began by teaching English as a Second Language to students of all ages. During graduate work, I taught two different courses on Linguistics for a total of seven semesters.

Courses Taught:

Ling 102: Introduction to the Study of Language- A general education course designed to introduce undergraduate students to what Linguistics is and what kinds of things Linguists research.

Ling 320: General Linguistics- A course designed for undergraduate students who know that they want to specifically study something to do with language. In this course, they are introduced to more formal elements of Phonetics, Phonology, Morphology, Syntax, Historical Linguistics, and Acquisition.

I have also guest lectured in Language and Gender and Introduction to Phonetics.

I am prepared to teach Sociolinguistics, Sociophonetics, Language and Gender, Experimental Methods, Acoustic and Articulatory Phonetics, Introductory Historical Linguistics, English Dialects, Introductory Linguistics, and Animal Communication.

You can view my CV here.

Publications and Presentations


Drager, K. and M.J. Kirtley.(2016).  Awareness, salience, and stereotypes in exemplar-based models of speech production and perception. In A. Babel (Ed.). Awareness and Control. Cambridge University Press.

Kirtley, M. J., K. Drager, J. Grama, S. Simpson. (2016). An acoustic analysis of the vowels of Hawai’i English. Journal of the International Phonetic Association.

Kirtley, M. J. (2014). Prosodic aspects of Hawai’i English: The rise-fall contour. Working Papers in Linguistics: University of Hawai’i at Manoa, 45(2), 1–13.

Drager, K., J. Grama, M.J. Kirtley, S. Simpson. (2013). Language Change in Hawaii: KIT, DRESS, and TRAP in motion. In Penn Working Papers in Linguistics.

Kirtley, M. J. Animal Communication. (2011). In LING 102 Reader. University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.

Kirtley, M.J. (2010). Speech in the U.S. Military: A Sociophonetic Perception Approach to Identity and Meaning. Master’s Thesis. University of Hawai’i at Mānoa.


Lee, C., K. Drager, C. Awai, J. Kim, and M.J. Kirtley. (2015). Ethnic identity and the pronunciation of Hawaiian place names on O‘ahu. Paper presented at the Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting. Chicago, April 2015

Simpson, S., K. Drager, J. Grama, and M.J. Kirtley. (2014). Sound change in the back vowels of Hawai‘i English. Paper presented at New Ways of Analyzing Variation 43. Chicago, October 2014.

Kirtley, M.J. (2014). Building on a methodology: Making the Matched-Guise technique more powerful. Paper presented at the International Conference on Language and Social Psychology 14. Honolulu, June 2014.

Awai, C., H. Britton, M. Dailey, K. Drager, J. Kim, M.J. Kirtley, C. Lee, and C. Stabile. (2014). Factors influencing the pronunciation of Hawaiian place names. Paper presented at New Ways of Analyzing Variation- Asia Pacific 3. Wellington, May 2014.

Kirtley, M. J. (2012). Would You Date This Person? The Effects of Fundamental Frequency on the Attractiveness of Speakers. Paper presented at New Ways of Analyzing Variation 41. Bloomington, October 2012.

Grama, J., M. J. Kirtley, K. Drager, S. Simpson and R. Clifford. (2012). Language Change in Hawai‘i:  KIT, DRESS & TRAP in Motion.  Paper presented at New Ways of Analyzing Variation 41. Bloomington, October 2012.

Kirtley, M. J. Survival of the Lowest?: The Effects of Pitch Difference on the Perceptions of Male Speakers. (2012). Poster presented at Linguistic Society of America. Portland, January 2012.

Kirtley, M. J. (2011). A study of the perception of four linguistic variables and their relationship to military speech. Paper presented at New Ways of Analyzing Variation 40. Georgetown, October 2011.

Kirtley, M. J. (2010). American Military Dialect. Paper presented at the American Dialect Society, Midwest. Chicago, November 2010.                                

Kirtley, M.J. (2010). Making a Soldier out of a Civilian: Linguistic Identity in the U.S. Military. Paper presented at the Fourteenth College-Wide Conference for Students in Languages, Linguistics, and Literature. Honolulu, April 2010.

Contact Me

You can reach me at


I began my post-secondary education at a small liberal arts school in Arkansas. I started as a Music Major, but soon learned that the isolation of the practice rooms wasn’t for me, so I changed to English, where I was very happy. After three years of teaching after completing my Bachelor’s, I decided to go back to pursue graduate work, and I knew that Linguistics would be perfect for my interests. I have studied in Hawai’i for six years and will be defending my dissertation in the fall of 2015.

2015      PhD in Linguistics- University of Hawai’i at Mānoa

2014      Master’s in Linguistics- University of Hawai’i at Mānoa

2006      Bachelor’s in English Literature- John Brown University

About Me

I grew up in a small town in Kansas, moved away to Arkansas for college, lived in Japan, Seattle, and Poland teaching English, and then moved to Hawai’i for graduate school. I have now finished my Doctoral education, and am hoping to find an academic position in Linguistics. Research and teaching are absolutely my favorite things to do, and I’m looking forward to doing them for a living. Aside from those interests, I’m also a lover of reading, singing, hiking, and outrigger paddling, and I’m a crazy animal lover. Right now, I live with my wonderful husband Todd and my dog and two cats in Los Angeles.

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