Sociolinguistics and linguistic anthropology; sociophonetics; language, gender, and sexuality, especially within transgender and LGBQ communities; embodiment; language and identity; language socialization; ethnography; acoustic and perceptual phonetics; discourse analysis.
I am a sociocultural linguist who focuses on the linguistic practices of transgender and LGBQ speakers through a combination of ethnographic, discourse analytic, and sociophonetic methods. Much of my work is concerned with the complex relationship between identity and gendered embodiment, which I approach from two perspectives.
The first arm of my research concerns the innovative use of body part terminology in primarily internet-mediated transgender communities of practice. By exploring how trans speakers combine traditionally female and male genital terminology, this work highlights the ways trans bodies challenge our most basic ideas about gender and sex. Rather than treating sex as the natural, objectively real, biological state of the body, trans speakers push us to recognize the fluidity and socially constructed nature of “female” and “male” embodiment.
This understanding of the gendered body informs my sociophonetic research on the production and perception of the voice’s gendered characteristics. In this work, I have emphasized the complexity of gender differences in the voice, which exist not in pre-packaged female and male types, but rather are constructed through innovative combinations of disparate linguistic resources that take on meaning only with respect to their context of occurrence.
As a whole, my research program and advocacy are aimed at challenging prevailing notions about gender, sex, and the body in both linguistics and broader cultural contexts, offering in their place a socially-grounded understanding of the body that centers non-normative genders and better accounts for the full range of gendered subjectivities.
2012 Ph.D., Linguistics, University of Colorado, Boulder
- Examining the intersections of race and gender in the voices of trans people of color;
- Tracking changes in the use of body part terminologies in trans communities;
- Theorizing the interactional and social meanings of creaky voice quality;
- In collaboration with colleagues at Reed College, analyzing the social distribution of creaky voice quality across a gender-diverse sample;
- Documenting developments in trans communities’ linguistic activism;
- The construction of agency with respect to gender presentation and identity.
- General Editor, Oxford University Press’s series, Studies in Language, Gender, and Sexuality
Zimman, Lal (forthcoming). Agency and the gendered voice: Metalinguistic negotiations of vocal masculinization among female-to-male transgender speakers. For Anna Babel (Ed.), Sociolinguistic Awareness and Control. Cambridge University Press.
Zimman, Lal (2015). Transmasculinity and the voice: Diverse masculinities through phonetic bricolage. For Tommaso Milani (Ed.), Language and Masculinities. Routledge. 197-219.
Zimman, Lal, Jenny Davis & Joshua Raclaw (Eds.) (2014). Queer Excursions: Retheorizing Binaries in Language, Gender, and Sexuality. Oxford University Press. First editor, with Jenny Davis and Joshua Raclaw.
Zimman, Lal (2014). The discursive construction of sex: Remaking and reclaiming the gendered body in talk about genitals among trans men. In Lal Zimman, Joshua Raclaw, and Jenny Davis (eds.), Queer Excursions: Retheorizing Binaries in Language, Gender, and Sexuality. Oxford University Press. 13-34.
Davis, Jenny, Lal Zimman, and Joshua Raclaw (2014). Opposites attract: Retheorizing binaries in language, gender, and sexuality. In Lal Zimman, Jenny Davis, & Joshua Raclaw (Eds.), Queer Excursions: Retheorizing Binaries in Language, Gender, and Sexuality. Oxford University Press. 1-12.
Edelman, Elijah & Lal Zimman (2014). Boycunts and bonus holes: Discourse about transmasculine bodies and the sexual productivity of genitals. Journal of Homosexuality 61(5):673-690. Special issue on Trans Sexualities, edited by Carla A. Pfeffer.
Zimman, Lal (2013). Hegemonic masculinity and the variability of gay-sounding speech: The perceived sexuality of transgender men. Journal of Language & Sexuality2(1):1-39.
Zimman, Lal & Kira Hall (2009). Language, embodiment, and the “third sex”. In Dominic Watt and Carmen Llamas (eds.), Language and Identities. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. 166-178.
Zimman, Lal (2009). “The other kind of coming out”: Transgender people and the coming out narrative genre. Gender and Language 3(1):53-80.
- Linguistics 106: Phonetics
- Linguistics 131: Sociocultural Linguistics
- Linguistics 233: Language, Gender, and Sexuality