Item Details

Coming out and normative shifts: Investigating usage patterns of gay and homosexual in a corpus of news reports on Ricky Martin

Issue: Vol 14 No. 1-2 (2020)

Journal: Sociolinguistic Studies

Subject Areas: Gender Studies Linguistics

DOI: 10.1558/sols.37005


This study seeks to shed light on discursive shifts in sexuality-related normativity that are associated with coming out. Subscribing to a queer linguistically informed type of critical discourse studies, it investigates the usage patterns of two labels that are commonly used to denote same-sex sexualities: gay and homosexual. The meanings and usages of these forms are first discussed more generally, based on evidence from an earlier study on a major English reference corpus. The analytical part studies the usage patterns of the two terms in a corpus of news reports on Ricky Martin more specifically, through a systematic inspection of concordance lines. For this purpose, the usages of the two forms are analysed in and compared across two sub-corpora, one with texts dating from before and one with texts dating from after the artist’s public coming out as a gay man. Besides a quantification of the terms in the two corpora, the main focus is on the qualitative analysis of the usage patterns that the terms exhibit in the data. The patterns thus identified are discussed in relation to the discursive construction of coming out as a central experience of nonheterosexual people and as discursive evidence for normative shifts associated with coming out. 

Author: Heiko Motschenbacher

View Original Web Page

References :

Anthony, L. (2018) AntConc (Version 3.5.2) [Computer Software]. Tokyo: Waseda University. Retrieved from:

Austin, J. L. (1962) How to Do Things with Words. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Bacon, J. (1998) Getting the story straight: Coming out narratives and the possibility of a cultural rhetoric. World Englishes 17(2): 249–258. Doi:

Bannink, A. and Wentink, D. (2015) ‘I need to confess something’: Coming out on national television. Discourse and Communication 9(5): 535–558. Doi:

Benozzo, A. (2013) Coming out of the credenza: An Italian celebrity unveils his ‘new’ gay self. Sexualities 16(3/4): 336–360. Doi:

Butler, J. (1990) Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge.

Calafell, B. M. (2007) Latina/o Communication Studies: Theorizing Performance. New York: Peter Lang.

Cameron, D. (2013) More Heat than Light? Sex-Difference Science and the Study of Language. Vancouver: Ronsdale Press.

Chirrey, D. A. (2003) ‘I hereby come out’: What sort of speech act is coming out? Journal of Sociolinguistics 7(1): 24–37. Doi:

Chirrey, D. A. (2011) Formulating dispositions in coming out advice. Discourse Studies 13(3): 283–298. Doi:

Chirrey, D. A. (2012) Reading the script: An analysis of script formulation in coming out advice texts. Journal of Language and Sexuality 1(1): 35–58. Doi:

Davis, J. L., Zimman, L. and Raclaw, J. (2014) Opposites attract: Retheorizing binaries in language, gender, and sexuality. In L. Zimman, J. L. Davis and J. Raclaw (eds) Queer Excursions: Retheorizing Binaries in Language, Gender, and Sexuality 1–12. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Doi:

Didomenico, S. M. (2015) ‘Putting a face on a community’: Genre, identity, and institutional regulation in the telling (and retelling) of oral coming-out narratives. Language in Society 44(5): 607–628. Doi:

Ellwood, C. (2006) On coming out and coming undone: Sexualities and reflexivities in language education research. Journal of Language, Identity and Education 5(1): 67–84. Doi:

Kian, E. M., Anderson, E. and Shipka, D. (2015) ‘I am happy to start the conversation’: Examining sport media framing of Jason Collins’ coming out and playing inthe NBA. Sexualities 18(5/6): 618–640. Doi:

King, K. R. (2017) Three waves of gay male athlete coming out narratives. Quarterly Journal of Speech 103(4): 372–394. Doi:

Kitzinger, C. (2005) ‘Speaking as a heterosexual’: (How) Does sexuality matter for talk-in-interaction? Research on Language and Social Interaction 38(3): 221–265. Doi:

Land, V. and Kitzinger, C. (2005) Speaking as a lesbian: Correcting the heterosexist presumption. Research on Language and Social Interaction 38(4): 371–416. Doi:

Land, V. and Kitzinger, C. (2007) Closet talk: The contemporary relevance of the closet in lesbian and gay interaction. In V. Clarke and E. Peel (eds): Out in Psychology: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Queer Perspectives 147–172. Chichester: Wiley. Doi:

Leap, W. (1999) Language, socialization, and silence in gay adolescence. In M. Bucholtz, A. C. Liang and L. A. Sutton (eds) Reinventing Identities: The Gendered Self in Discourse 259–272. New York: Oxford University Press.

Liang, A. C. (1994) ‘Coming out’ as transition and transcendence of the public/private dichotomy. In M. Bucholtz, A. C. Liang, L. A. Sutton and C. Hines (eds) Cultural Performances: Proceedings of the Third Berkeley Women and Language Conference 409–420. Berkeley, CA: Berkeley Women and Language Group.

Liang, A. C. (1997) The creation of coherence in coming-out stories. In A. Livia and K. Hall (eds) Queerly Phrased: Language, Gender, and Sexuality 287–309. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lugo-Lugo, C. R. (2012) ‘Ricky Martin ain’t no dixie chick’: Or, how we can learn a few things about citizenship and invisibility from popular culture. Centro Journal 24(1): 68–89.

Machin, D. and Mayr, A. (2012) How to Do Critical Discourse Analysis. London: Sage.

Magrath, R., Cleland, J. and Anderson, E. (2017) Bisexual erasure in the British print media: Representation of Tom Daley’s coming out. Journal of Bisexuality 17(3): 300–317. Doi:

Morrish, L. and Sauntson, H. (2007) New Perspectives on Language and Sexual Identity. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Doi:

Motschenbacher, H. (2010) Language, Gender and Sexual Identity: Poststructuralist Perspectives. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins. Doi:

Motschenbacher, H. (2011) Taking Queer Linguistics further: Sociolinguistics and critical heteronormativity research. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 212: 149–179. Doi:

Motschenbacher, H. (2014) Focusing on normativity in language and sexuality studies: Insights from conversations on objectophilia. Critical Discourse Studies 11(1): 49–70. Doi:

Motschenbacher, H. (2018a) Sexuality in critical discourse studies. In J. Flowerdew and J. E. Richardson (eds) The Routledge Handbook of Critical Discourse Studies 388–402. Oxford: Routledge. Doi:

Motschenbacher, H. (2018b) Corpus linguistics in language and sexuality studies: Taking stock and looking ahead. Journal of Language and Sexuality 7(2): 145–174. Doi:

Motschenbacher, H. (2019) Discursive shifts associated with coming out: A corpus-based analysis of news reports about Ricky Martin. Journal of Sociolinguistics 23(3): 284–302. Doi:

Motschenbacher, H. (forthcoming a) Linguistic Dimensions of Sexual Normativity.

Motschenbacher, H. (forthcoming b) Language and sexual normativity. In R. Barrett and K. Hall (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Language and Sexuality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Muñoz, J. E. (1999) Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Negrón-Muntaner, F. (2004) Boricua Pop: Puerto Ricans and the Latinization of American Culture. New York: New York University Press.

Nylund, D. (2004) When in Rome: Heterosexism, homophobia, and sports talk radio. Journal of Sport and Social Issues 28(2): 136–168. Doi:

Ó’Móchain, R. (2014) Coming out in university EFL classrooms in Japan: Report on a pilot study. International Gender and Language Association (ed.) IGALA8 - International Gender and Language Association Conference: Book of Proceedings 210–223. Vancouver: Simon Fraser University.

Quiroga, J. (2000) Tropics of Desire: Interventions from Queer Latino America. New York: New York University Press.

Rivera Santana, C., Vélez Agosto, N. M., Benozzo, A., and Colón de la Rosa, S. (2014) Creative (critical) discourse analysis of Tiziano Ferro and Ricky Martin ‘coming out’. Qualitative Inquiry 20(2): 183–192. Doi:

Sauntson, H. (2007) Education, culture and the construction of sexual identity. An APPRAISAL analysis of lesbian coming out narratives. In H. Sauntson and S. Kyratzis (eds) Language, Sexualities and Desires: Cross-cultural Perspectives 140–164. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Doi:

Sauntson, H. (2015) Coming out stories. In P. Whelehan and A. Bolin (eds) The International Encyclopedia of Human Sexuality: Volume 1 244–245. London: Wiley-Blackwell. Doi:

Schallhorn, C. and Hempel, A. (2015) Media coverage of Thomas Hitzlsperger’s coming-out in German newspapers. Journalism Studies 18(9): 1187–1205. Doi:

Warner, M. (1999) The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and the Ethics of Queer Life. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Wong, A. (2009) Coming-out stories and the ‘gay imaginary’. Sociolinguistic Studies 3(1): 1–36. Doi:

Wood, K. M. (1997) Narrative iconicity in electronic-mail lesbian coming-out stories. In A. Livia and K. Hall (eds) Queerly Phrased: Language, Gender, and Sexuality 257–273. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Zimman, L. (2009) ‘The other kind of coming out’: Transgender people and the coming out narrative genre. Gender and Language 3(1): 53–80. Doi: