While living and studying in Milan, Italy as an exchange student after high school, I began to notice certain linguistic features that appeared exclusively in gay men’s speech. These included feminization of adjectives, affectionately tongue-in-cheek terms of address, and an animatedly flamboyant style. Given the work done by American scholars on the existence of and attitudes toward a gay American English sociolect (a dialect centered within a social group), my Honors thesis research will extend the issue of gay men’s speech to Italy, a country whose primary language has received little attention in this regard. In this way I will combine my linguistics major with my Italian Studies minor, and I could not be happier with how this project worked out!
More specifically I will employ qualitative interviews in the tradition of perceptual dialectology in order to discover what gay Italian men perceive to “count” as gay men’s language, as well as their attitudes to such language. Perceptual dialectology seeks to ask non-linguists directly about what they think constitutes a certain dialect (or sociolect). I will conduct these interviews in Milan, Italy, the most industrialized and progressive city in the country. Milan is important within the Italian context as a traditional destination for gay Italian men coming from the rural provinces to live in a culturally vibrant and cosmopolitan environment.
After making audio recordings of around 5-7 interviews, I will spend several months transcribing the speech and eventually translating the Italian into English for use in my final product. This part of my methodology will take the longest to complete, but I will have the 2015-2016 academic year to complete my thematic analysis of the interviews before eventually writing the thesis. You may follow along with my progress on the William & Mary Honors Fellows blog at http://honorsfellows.blogs.wm.edu/category/honors-fellows-2015/. Grazie mille e spero che continuerete a seguire le mie avventure!
Anderson “Davis” Richardson
James Monroe Scholar
The College of William and Mary ’16
Linguistics & Italian Studies