Binary Opposition: Sociolinguistic Variation in Non-Binary Speakers

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Binary Opposition

Binary Opposition Sociolinguistic Variation in Non-Binary Speakers
Jack Rechsteiner
Linguistics Undergraduate Program
Michigan State University

Binary Opposition Sociolinguistic Variation in Non-Binary Speakers
As ideas about gender evolve, it is important for research to evolve with it. Much previous sociolinguistic work has considered gender in terms of the male–female binary which has led to analyses that view gender as asocial variable which has predictable effects in tandem with the effects of other macro-social categories and sociolinguistic variables (Eckert 1992). If sociolinguistics aims to descriptively study the influence of social variables on a speaker’s language production, then it is imperative to use an analytic approach which allows for the many complexities of gender to be examined and interpreted. Gender has been used as a sociolinguistic variable because of its salience in public discourse and power relations (Trudgill 1972; Lakoff
1973) as well as being a key component of many social hierarchies (Enke 2012, p, but framing gender as a male–female binary is inadequate for understanding the interactions between gender and sociolinguistic variation because it fails to include identities which could provide valuable insight into these interactions.
Existing research on those who are outside the cisnormative binary has largely focused on the experiences of trans people with binary trans identities (Goldberg & Kuvalanka however, the amount of research on speakers with gender identities outside of the transnormative and cisnormative binaries is significantly smaller (Bradford et al. 2019; Garmpi 2020).
Non-binary individuals present direct opposition to these gender binaries, in that they may identify as being somewhere along the spectrum between male and female or outside of the male–female dichotomy entirely. The experiences of non-binary individuals have been shown to be different from the experiences of binary-gendered individuals, such as marginalization in both cis and LGBT communities in addition to the unique challenges of being gender nonconforming in spaces that tend to understand gender as a binary framework (Goldberg & Kuvalanka 2018;

Bradford et. al 2019). The construction of non-binary identity has also been shown to bean active and unique process due to the ways that non-binary speakers utilize linguistic resources
“to produce stances of resistance to cis-normative femininity and masculinity (Gratton An examination of sociolinguistic variation in non-binary speakers should be crucial in developing our understanding of gender and how it interacts with language, instead of a curiosity that is relegated to the margins of research.
Research has observed non-binary speakers using (ING) variants at differing rates indifferent speech environments dependent upon the identity that the speaker felt the need to present in those social contexts (Gratton 2016). The goal of this study is to build upon this research by examining the variable use of (ING) by non-binary individuals while speaking about gender as contrasted with speaking on other topics. The research uses data from sociolinguistic surveys that were conducted with six non-binary participants. The analysis of this data showed that the non-binary participants interviewed did not significantly vary in their use of (ING)
across topics, and it revealed that all participants had similar patterns of (ING) production regardless of their sex assignment at birth. This raises the implication that future research should consider analyzing the speech patterns of non-binary speakers in relation to other non-binary speakers to further confirm this trend. This paper begins with a review of the literature on gender, the variable (ING, and sociolinguistic variation in non-binary speakers, followed by a description of the methodology used in this study, a review of the results of the study, and discussions of patterns found in the data, insights gleaned from the participant’s meta-linguistic data, as well as addressing other factors which may have influenced usage of (ING).

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