Gender Identification in Language

Gender Identification in Language Other than Mother-Tongue: A Case of Non-Thai Listeners Deciphering a Thai Male Speaker’s Gender


Savitri Gadavanij* Graduate School of Language and Communication, National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA)


          This paper explores what factors contribute to distinguishing gay sounding and straight man sounding speech; linguistic cognate or social knowledge and whether the gender of listeners also determines ability in identification. To answer these questions, 286 participants were classified by nationality into 3 groups of participants: Thai listeners as a control group, Zhuang, and Other listeners.

          They were asked to listen to 12 voice stimuli in Thai from straight and gay men and identify the gender of the speakers. The outcome revealed that the accuracy rate in identifying a speaker’s gender varied among the 3 groups of listeners with Thai listeners scoring the highest in gender identification, followed by the Others and Zhuang respectively. This indicates that social knowledge gained from one’s presence Thailand is more important than linguistic cognate. Gender identification may have been made based on the expectation of the ‘typical’ social scene such as the high visibility of gay men in Thailand. The results also suggest that gender of the listeners does not have a significant bearing on the ability to differentiate gay and straight male voices.