The past two decades have witnessed a minor explosion in publications dealing with the ways in which gay men and lesbians use language. In fact, though, work on the topic has been appearing in several disciplines (philology, linguistics, women's studies, anthropology, and speech communication) since the 1940s. This review charts the history of research on “gay and lesbian language,” detailing earlier concerns and showing how work of the 1980s and 1990s both grows out of and differs from previous scholarship. Through a critical analysis of key assumptions that guide research, this review argues that gay and lesbian language does not and cannot exist in the way it is widely imagined to do. The review concludes with the suggestion that scholars abandon the search for gay and lesbian language and move on to develop and refine concepts that permit the study of language and sexuality, and language and desire.

Keyword(s): desirehomosexualitysexuality

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  • Article Type: Review Article
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