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.

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