Sociolinguistic Studies, Vol 14, No 1-2 (2020)

Coming out and normative shifts: Investigating usage patterns of gay and homosexual in a corpus of news reports on Ricky Martin

Heiko Motschenbacher
Issued Date: 2 Oct 2020

Abstract


This study seeks to shed light on discursive shifts in sexuality-related normativity that are associated with coming out. Subscribing to a queer linguistically informed type of critical discourse studies, it investigates the usage patterns of two labels that are commonly used to denote same-sex sexualities: gay and homosexual. The meanings and usages of these forms are first discussed more generally, based on evidence from an earlier study on a major English reference corpus. The analytical part studies the usage patterns of the two terms in a corpus of news reports on Ricky Martin more specifically, through a systematic inspection of concordance lines. For this purpose, the usages of the two forms are analysed in and compared across two sub-corpora, one with texts dating from before and one with texts dating from after the artist’s public coming out as a gay man. Besides a quantification of the terms in the two corpora, the main focus is on the qualitative analysis of the usage patterns that the terms exhibit in the data. The patterns thus identified are discussed in relation to the discursive construction of coming out as a central experience of nonheterosexual people and as discursive evidence for normative shifts associated with coming out. 

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DOI: 10.1558/sols.37005

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