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"Do you feel like a woman or do you feel like a drag queen" A queer linguistic analysis of drag queen speech
Myers, Allyson Christie
Gawron, MarkMiller, Arianne E.
In this thesis I argue for a flexible conceptualization of semantics, using the negotiation of the meaning of gendered words in drag queen speech on RuPaul’s Drag Race as a case study. I begin with a critique of the formal semantics approach to word meaning. I then provide a summary of semantic theories which view word meanings and categories as flexible and negotiable, followed by a discussion of how those theories fit into a queer lens. I then apply those theories to drag queen speech. I argue that the drag queen community, while using gendered words in a way that violates the rules of Standard American English (SAE), does not follow a different set of rules for linguistic gender. Rather, the differences can be attributed to the social context of the utterances, whose semantics are negotiated in situ, suggesting that the meaning of gendered words are context-dependent rather than based on necessary and sufficient conditions. I argue that drag queen speech adds to a non-normative meaning of gender. Finally, language attitudes of participants on RuPaul’s Drag Race demonstrate that although drag performance and linguistic drag is subversive to an extent, individual drag queen attitudes about gender may lie within the normative gender binary. However, for at least some drag queens, gender fluidity is essential to their expressed gender attitudes. Regardless of individual gender and language attitudes, the flexibility of linguistic gender in drag queen speech has important implications for theories of semantic meaning.
Linguistics and Asian/Middle Eastern Languages
Arts and Letters
Master of Arts (M.A.) San Diego State University, 2017
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