Interactional sociolinguistics in language and sexuality research

Benefits and challenges

Authored by: Corinne A. Seals

The Routledge Handbook of Language, Gender, and Sexuality

Print publication date:  April  2021
Online publication date:  April  2021

Print ISBN: 9781138200265
eBook ISBN: 9781315514857
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter explores the benefits and challenges associated with applying an interactional sociolinguistics approach when studying language and sexuality. The chapter begins by providing a brief overview of the foundation of interactional sociolinguistic studies and how this has come to include research on language and sexuality. This discussion then leads into an exploration of the insights that were gained from these studies by using an IS approach, specifically arguing for the value of IS. Following this, the chapter also discusses some of the limitations that could be encountered by using a strictly IS approach and how strength can instead be gained in combining IS with more critical perspectives. To illustrate this argument, I then introduce a case study of a lesbian comedian performing for different audiences (known allies and unknown dispositions, respectively) (Seals 2016). Utilising this example, I show what insights were gained through the use of IS that otherwise would have been missed by a more direct text-focused approach such as conversation analysis. This illustration then continues, showing the further insights that were gained by also applying the post-structuralist theory of intertextuality (Bakhtin 1981). The chapter ends by arguing for the usefulness of multiple frameworks when analysing discourse to get a more holistic understanding of the data, followed by suggestions for future research.

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