William Leap

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William Leap, also known as Bill Leap,[1] is a professor of anthropology at American University who works in the field of gay and lesbian linguistics. He teaches courses about neoliberalism, critical discourse analysis, language, and human behavior.[2]


William Leap earned his bachelor's degree from Florida State University in 1967[3] and his Ph.D. from Southern Methodist University[4] in 1970. His dissertation advisor was George Trager.[5]


Leap has been openly gay since he began teaching at American University in Washington, D.C. in 1970.[3] Leap is a leading academic in Lavender linguistics and has been a recipient of the American Anthropological Association Ruth Benedict Award for publishing in Gay and Lesbian anthropology in 1996, 2003, and 2009. He founded the annual Lavender Languages & Linguistics conference in 1993 to coincide with the March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation.[1] In 2012, he launched The Journal of Language and Sexuality with Heiko Motschenbacher.[6] He has been a member of the American Anthropological Association's AIDS task force.[4] He has done research among Native Americans of the Southwest U.S., South Africans, and Gay men in Washington, DC. He was one of the first researchers to study American Indian Pidgin English in the same way that others had studied Black English,[7] and he has been prominent in Indian language revitalization projects.[8]


  • 2009 Introducing Sociolinguistics, (2nd ed.) (Raj Mesthre, Joan Swann, Anna Deumert, and William Leap). Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh Press. (First edition, 2000)
  • 2009 (co-edited with Ellen Lewin) Out in Public: Lesbian and Gay Anthropology in a Globalizing World. Malden MA: Wiley-Blackwell
  • 2007 (with Liz Morrish) Sex talk: Language, desire, identity and beyond. in Language, Sexualities, and Desires: Cross-Cultural Perspectives. Helen Sauntson and Sakis Kyratzsis. 17-40. London: Palgrave Press.
  • 2007 Queering the disaster: A Presidential session. (with Ellen Lewin and Natasha Wilson). North American Dialogues, 10(2):11-14. 2005 “Finding the Centre: Claiming gay space in Cape Town, South Africa.” in Performing Queer: Shaping Sexualities 1992-2004. Mikki van Zyl and Melissa Steyn, eds. pp. 235–266. Cape Town: Kwela Press.
  • 2004 "Marriage,” “Family” and Same-Sex Marriage: Are We Addressing the Right Questions? Anthropology Newsletter, 45(6): 6.
  • 2004 (co-edited with Tom Boellstorff) Speaking in Queer Tongues: Globalization and Gay Language. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
  • 2003 Language and gendered modernity. in The Handbook of Language and Gender. Janet Holmes and Miriam Meyerhoff, eds. pp. 401–422. London: Blackwell2002 (co-edited with Ellen Lewin) Out in Theory: The Emergence of Lesbian and Gay Anthropology. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
  • 1998 (editor) Public Sex/Gay Space New York City: Columbia University Press.
  • 1996 (co-edited with Ellen Lewin) Out in the Field: Lesbian and Gay Reflections. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
  • 1996 Word's Out: Gay Men's English. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. (Now in second printing). A sociolinguistic discussion of gay English, including coded terms.[9]
  • 1996 Representation, subjectivity and ethics in urban gay ethnography (with Alan Hersker). City and Society, 12: 142-147.
  • 1995 Review essay: Liminal gender categories: Third Sex, Third Gender. [Gilbert Herdt, ed]. American Anthropologist, 87 (3): 589-590.


  1. ^ a b O'Bryan, Will (8 February 2007). "Speaking of Gay: Pioneering local conference continues study of 'Lavender Languages'". Metro Weekly. Retrieved 20 May 2011. 
  2. ^ George Haggerty; Bonnie Zimmerman, eds. (2000). Encyclopedia of lesbian and gay histories and cultures. 1. Taylor & Francis. p. 437. ISBN 0-8153-3354-4. 
  3. ^ a b Leap, William L. (1996). "Studying Gay English". In Ellen Lewin, William Leap. Out in the field: reflections of lesbian and gay anthropologists. University of Illinois Press. p. 0252065182. 
  4. ^ a b Kleiman, Carol (28 April 1991). "Anthropology Heads Into Business World". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 20 May 2011. 
  5. ^ "OBITUARY George L. Trager (1906-1992)". Newsletter of the Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas. 12-17. 1993. 
  6. ^ "Breaking the Stereotype of LGBTQ Language". Echelon Magazine. 7 February 2011. Retrieved 20 May 2011. 
  7. ^ Stephen Adolphe Wurm; Peter Mühlhäusler; Darrell T. Tryon, eds. (1996). Atlas of languages of intercultural communication in the Pacific, Asia and the Americas. Walter de Gruyter. p. 1225. ISBN 3-11-013417-9. 
  8. ^ Cutler, Charles L. (2000). O Brave New Words!: Native American Loanwords in Current English. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 31. ISBN 0-8061-3246-9. 
  9. ^ Kitson, Peter; The English Association (1999). The Year's Work in English Studies. 77: YW 1996. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 66. ISBN 0-631-21293-0. 

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