Universiteit Leiden

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Turkish Queer slang: Language contact and the construction of non-ethnic identity

Thursday 8 November 2018
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden


Queer communities have been known to develop their own in-group language, drawing upon the languages of other minorities with which they come in contact. A number of Queer slang varieties have been well-documented. Polari (Baker 2002) – once spoken in London – and Kaliarda (Petropoulos 1971) – currently spoken in Greece – both benefit from from extensive descriptions of their lexicons, as well as the social conditions surrounding their historical development based on fieldwork and archival research. By contrast, the slang known as Lubunca used mostly by gay men and transsexuals in Istanbul has received only scant mention in the scholarly literature on Queer language (Kyuchukov & Bakker 1999 ; Yüzgün 1986), and no systematic account of its lexicon or development has yet been produced. The purpose of my this research project, which began as my Master’s thesis at Indiana University, Bloomington (completed 2012) is to construct a narrative explaining the historical development of slang among the Queer community in Istanbul. I will focus on the ways in which the sociolinguistic ecology of the district of the city has changed over time, and along with it the composition of in-group language among (in modern terms) gay male and trans women sex workers from the Ottoman Empire to the present day as recorded in contemporary travelogues and erotic literature. I will also explain how members of the more recent Queer community have transmitted and acquired knowledge of Lubunca, all the while responding to shifts in the linguistic market by incorporating words from the various ethnolinguistic minorities around them. It is my hope that, by examining the very special circumstances which lead to the creation of Lubunca, we might be able to make useful statements regarding how certain peculiar factors – such as the consciousness of identity construction, desire for maximal incomprehensibility, idealization of the subaltern, and intense borrowing with minimal bilingualism – might inform our theoretical apparatus for examining more “traditional” language contact situations.

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