My primary goal in this chapter has been to examine how Igal negotiates his conflicting identifications with both Orthodox Judaism and homosexuality. To that end, I examine Igal’s use of creaky voice in the interview I conducted with him. A quantitative distributional analysis of creak demonstrates that Igal uses this feature significantly more frequently and in more unexpected linguistic contexts when talking about the intersection of sexuality and religion than when talking on other topics. I argue that this finding indicates that Igal is using creaky voice stylistically and in order to achieve some social and/or interactional goal related to his sexual and religious identifications. A qualitative analysis of creak in context then reveals that Igal deploys the feature whenever he expresses an affective alignment with same-sex desire that threatens to disrupt his simultaneous alignment with Orthodox Judaism. In other words, it is not the case that creak coincides with all instances of Igal orienting to homosexuality. There are many examples of Igal describing same-sex desires and experiences that contain no stylistic creak whatsoever. Rather, creak only occurs when the specific orientation to homosexuality that Igal adopts potentially undermines his positioning as an Orthodox Jew (because, for example, that orientation is too affective or personal, or because it involves engaging in explicitly forbidden acts).
For this reason, I argue that creaky voice serves as a deontic stance-marker for Igal, through which he signals his continued commitment to the valuative framework of Orthodox Judaism. In essence, I suggest that with creaky voice Igal laminates a deontic stance of Orthodox positionality onto a simultaneous expression of orientation to same-sex desire. This has the effect of discursively containing his identification with homosexuality and relegating it to a hierarchically lower position than his identification with Orthodox Judaism. Put another way, creaky voice allows Igal to layer an identificationally privileged commitment to religion onto a simultaneous commitment to same-sex desire. Crucially, I argue that simultaneity here does not imply a harmonious reconciliation of these two conflicting identifications (cf. Yip 2002) but, rather, a state in which the contradiction remains in stable tension.
I believe that this argument has several important ramifications. First, my analysis supports the claim that linguistic practice can result from the existence of multiple and conflicting identifications (Cameron & Kulick 2003; Kulick 2005). Essentially, I argue that creaky voice is a materialization of the subjective conflict that Igal experiences between his sexual and religious identifications. What I mean by this is that we find creaky voice precisely at those moments when Igal aligns himself with a potentially threatening articulation of homosexuality (e.g., homosexuality as reciprocal love or as engaging in forbidden sexual acts). I suggest that creaky voice provides Igal with a mechanism for laminating a strategic and partial disalignment with these articulations of homosexuality at the very same time that he is also aligning with them. In other words, I argue that at these moments Igal simultaneously orients to and away from particular conceptualizations of same-sex desire, and that it is creaky voice that allows him to adopt this internally contradictory positioning. What this means is that neither Igal’s identification with homosexuality nor his identification with Judaism can account for the observed patterns of language use. Rather, it is the combination (and contradiction) of the two that does.
The second ramification of this analysis, then, is that it highlights the importance of a theory of stance to our understandings of the social meaning of variation. I argue that it is not the case that Igal deploys creaky voice in an effort to actively construct a “gay” or “Orthodox” or even “gay Orthodox” persona. While I acknowledge that such a persona may emerge from Igal’s speech (Podesva 2007), I maintain that a close analysis of Igal’s use of creaky voice demonstrates that it functions as a means for Igal to adopt a deontic stance and so position himself with respect to both his sexual and religious identifications. Given this, I would argue that the primary meaning of creaky voice in the interview is not (as a simple correlational analysis might assume) “gayness” or “masculinity” or “religion.” Rather, I propose that the reason Igal uses creak to take a deontic stance is because of the feature’s association with “contained” or “suppressed” emotion, what Bolinger (1982) calls “tension under control.” I believe that Igal recruits this meaning as a way of limiting or, perhaps more
figure 11.4 An indexical field for creaky voice (adapted from Podesva 2013: 436)
appropriately, managing his affective and personal orientation to “troublesome” articulations of same-sex desire. Ultimately, I argue that managing his affective orientation toward homosexuality via creaky voice is the means through which Igal adopts a deontic stance that positions him firmly within the valuative framework of Orthodox Judaism. In this sense, then, the meaning of creaky voice for Igal is not so much about “identity” or “personae” as it is about the stances that he takes with respect to his identifications.
To conclude, I would note that this proposed meaning of “suppressed or contained affect” for creaky voice also applies to all of the previous analyses of creak mentioned at the beginning of this chapter. Creak’s association with men and masculinity, for example, could result from the normative linking of “manliness” with rational and affect-free behavior (e.g., Sattel 1983). Similarly, the use of creak by young women in the United States to take stances of “authority” or to portray “upwardly-mobile professional” personae could also be based on a belief that professionalism and authority entail suppressing one’s emotions. And, finally, Mendoza-Denton (2011) explicitly links the “tough” and “hardcore” meaning of creaky voice among Latina gang girls with emotional distance and being “hard of heart.” It therefore appears that all the uses of creak that have been identified previously in the literature can be seen as ideological elaborations of a fundamental (and perhaps iconic) association between creaky voice and suppressed affect. I would therefore propose that “suppression/contain- ment of affect” is the core meaning that anchors the indexical field of creaky voice (see Figure 11.4), making the feature available for a variety of related social and interactional purposes, including, in the case of Igal, negotiating the subjective conflict between Orthodox Judaism and same-sex desire.