Robert Hellyer

Thesis title:

Coming out with it: the relationship between language and emerging identity in young LGBT+ people


Within fractions of a second, our voices tell listeners a lot about us, about our age, gender, level of education, and for some, even our sexuality. For teenagers in neat, matching school uniforms, language is one of the few resources available to actively present aspects of our identity and distance ourselves from other identities and groups. While research into language and adolescents demonstrates their centrality in changing and progressing language, much less research considers the nuanced and complex relationships these young people have with categories of identity that are imposed on them. With the increased visibility of positive LGBT+ role models, who don’t conform to gender norms, alongside constant anti-LGBT+ backlash in the media, the navigation of adolescent identity through language offers an invaluable insight into the social mechanics of language change, identity and discrimination.

This project will investigate the speech and language of young in secondary school LGBT+ ‘Pride clubs’ across London, as a new site for high school ethnographic research in emerging identities across different contexts that are more (or less) inclusive or tolerant. The combination of qualitative and quantitative methods across the multiple sites will create a body of data for analysing aspects of language such as sound, but also become a resource for use in wider research investigating aspects of gender, sexuality and adolescence.

First supervisor:

Colleen Cotter


7-Linguistics, Media & Culture