Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

My Partner and I: Commitment Terminology within Evolving Heteronormative Linguistic Contexts

My Partner and I: Commitment Terminology within Evolving Heteronormative Linguistic Contexts

Beau Kromberg

The terminology used to define committed relationships is changing rapidly in order to encompass a variety of relationships that exist outside of the heterosexual community. Drawing on work in sociolinguistic, feminist, and queer theory, this research investigates how the selection of relationship terminology is motivated by the avoidance of taboo, relationship expectations, and the negotiation of one’s own identity. Further investigation into the use of the word “partner” in both heterosexual and homosexual dating profiles highlights thematic aspects of the term “partner”, in order to argue for the continued proliferation of the word as a relationship term within both communities. Through inquiry centered around a single word, this work elaborates on the complexities of selecting relationship terms in a heteronormative society that is evolving to acknowledge relationships that were previously peripheral.

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April 11, 2016 - Posted by | abstract

1 Comment »

  1. This topic fascinates me. My own experiences with this choice and using the word “partner” to explain my romantic relationship with the man who is now my “husband” inclines me to agree on the complexity of the selection. I hadn’t considered the ambiguity of this word before I began using it and noticed unease in hearers at times when I used it. I surmised that people didn’t know how to classify me. Testing others’ ability to tolerate ambiguity became sort of an added benefit of “partner”. Finally, I started to wonder whether or not those in same sex or otherwise non-normative relationships using “partner”, those who knew my relationship was opposite sex, would be irritated at my use of the word when I have various other words to describe my normed (un-othered) relationship. (This brings up word “ownership” tingeing on avoidance registers, which is something I’m not sure we addressed directly during this course but I think it is an interesting anthro/sociolinguistic topic in race and gender especially.) For me, the choice was about relationship expectations and identity initially, but became personally controversial because of a fear of being viewed as insensitive or disrespectful. This makes me wonder at orders of indexicality as well, second and maybe even third?

    While I wouldn’t assume the experience of my neuroses is similar to others, I do often hear statistics regarding how millennials are putting off home buying, marriage, and children. I wonder how much (if at all) this affects this word choice. In other words, heterosexual couples looking for a committed relationship without the expectation of marriage in the foreseeable future.

    Comment by C.M. Cassady | April 23, 2016 | Reply


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