JOPOL 4(2021)

Mimesis and the Acquisition of Gay Voice Timbre
Axel Fanego Palat

Notions of language acquisition (both popular and scientific) are largely based on the assumption that first (or child) language acquisition is a cognitive mechanism entirely different from the process of second (or foreign) language learning. The acquisition of certain phenomena involving identity and a linguistic self-image is difficult to frame in terms of this categorical distinction. Gay voice timbre is one such phenomenon. This paper reflects on the notion of ‘timbre’ and –faced with the conventional and strict binary distinction of first versus second language acquisition– it proposes a third space as its ontological site. Agency and leverage are significant factors in establishing and acquiring indexical markers like a gay voice timbre. Timbre acquisition results from intricate mimetic processes involving self- and perception by others. These are explored here regarding their potential to account for pervasive regular sociophonetic patterns (and their perception) co-existing with fluid and constantly re-negotiated identity categories that are indexed by timbre. 

Keywords: Mimesis, gay-sounding voice, acquisition of speech timbre, indexicality, queer linguistics