Graduation Year


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Linguistics and Cognitive Science

Reader 1

Michael Diercks

Reader 2

Galia Bar-Sever

Reader 3

Charles Kamm

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Past research has given insight into the creative and contextually specific nature of the construction of gender through linguistic variables. The significance of creaky voice (“vocal fry”) has been demonstrated in the construction of gender and its intersection with other social identities, but only one study has examined how nonbinary speakers use creaky voice to index gender. The current study is the first to explore situational differences in the use of creaky voice by nonbinary speakers, depending on the topic of conversation and gender identity of the conversation partner. Seven nonbinary college students and recent alumni took part in two virtual interviews, one conducted by a nonbinary person and the other by a cisgender woman. Recordings of each interview were examined in Praat to determine which words were spoken using creaky voice and to code their distance from the end of the utterance, and degree of creak (measured as H1-H2) was measured for each word. I find that speakers used creaky voice significantly more often and to a higher degree when talking to the nonbinary interviewer than to the cis interviewer. Participants who talked about using creak in their own speech generally viewed it as indexing gender nonconformity, masculinity, or queerness; they also discussed creaky voice as coinciding with a lowering of pitch, which they again linked to expressing nonnormative gender. Taken together, the quantitative and qualitative results suggest that creak may constitute part of a linguistic style in which speakers align themselves with others who identify outside the binary.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.