21.3342, Diss: Applied Ling/Socioling: Beinhoff: 'Attitudes of Non-Native ...'

Thu Aug 19 17:35:02 UTC 2010

LINGUIST List: Vol-21-3342. Thu Aug 19 2010. ISSN: 1068 - 4875.

Subject: 21.3342, Diss: Applied Ling/Socioling: Beinhoff: 'Attitudes of Non-Native ...'

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Date: 19-Aug-2010
From: Bettina Beinhoff < bb319 at cam.ac.uk >
Subject: Attitudes of Non-Native Speakers Towards Foreign Accents of English

-------------------------Message 1 ---------------------------------- 
Date: Thu, 19 Aug 2010 13:32:50
From: Bettina Beinhoff [bb319 at cam.ac.uk]
Subject: Attitudes of Non-Native Speakers Towards Foreign Accents of English

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Institution: University of Cambridge 
Program: Research Centre for English and Applied Linguistics 
Dissertation Status: Completed 
Degree Date: 2009 

Author: Bettina Beinhoff

Dissertation Title: Attitudes of Non-Native Speakers Towards Foreign Accents of 

Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics

Subject Language(s): English (eng)

Dissertation Director(s):
Brechtje Post
Henriette Hendriks

Dissertation Abstract:

The major aims of this thesis were to find out whether certain types of
variation in the pronunciation of English can have a significant effect on if
and how listeners identify with an accent, and whether this variation affects
the development of certain attitudes towards the speaker. 

This thesis is based on a highly interdisciplinary study. Its theoretical
background is set within the overall framework of Social Identity Theory and
self-categorization; in addition, it is strongly linked to attitude research.
All theoretical discussions in this thesis focus on non-native speaker (NNS)
language use and reveal significant gaps in the study of language attitudes and
identity as previous studies mostly concentrated on native speakers (NS). Most
research on NNS' identities and attitudes have been done in the field of English
as a Lingua Franca (ELF) which is a strong point of reference for this thesis.
Additionally, aspects of Second Language Acquisition are taken into account as
well to explain variation in the production and perception of accents by NNS.

There have been concerns about positive and negative discrimination between
people who speak with different accents. This thesis is one of the first studies
to examine attitudes towards NNS accents of English which could lead to
discrimination and it is the first study to compare two different kinds of NNS
accents of English (German and Greek). 

Using consonantal variation in Greek and German accents of English with varying
degrees of influence from the first language as a testing ground, I investigated: 
1) What the general attitudes towards NNS accents of English are 
2) whether NNS of English identify with a 'foreign' accent of English from
their own first language background and
3) what types of consonantal variation could influence attitudes towards
NNS of English.

In the first part of this study, attitudes towards German and Greek NNS accents
of English were compared to attitudes towards a Southern British accent which
was very similar to Received Pronunciation (RP) and a Scottish NS accent of
English. The results indicate that our listeners (who were German and Greek NNS
of English and English NS) tend to assign high prestige to an RP-like accent. In
general, the findings suggest that NNS listeners do not consider their own NNS
accent of English to reflect their identity and issues of status and prestige
seem to be of more importance to them than aspects of solidarity with their own
speaker group. 

The second part of this study investigated why some of the speech stimuli
received significantly unfavourable ratings in the previous experiment. The
results reveal that variation in the realisation of /r/ (as in the initial sound
in 'run') and variation in sibilants (e.g. the initial consonants in 'sit',
'zoo', 'ship', 'jelly') influence the perception of the speaker more than other
consonantal variation. Further apparent variation such as final devoicing and
non-velarised /l/ in word-final and post-vocalic positions (e.g. the realisation
of /l/ in 'call' as opposed to 'like') did not appear to be influential factors.

In a final experiment, the aim was to find out whether the consonant features
that were isolated in the previous part of the study can influence attitudes.
Overall, consonantal variations were more positively rated the more similar they
were to RP variants, indicating that the RP accent was the mental model that NNS
accents were compared to. Further results suggest that similar to the first
experiment, accent variation influences the perceived prestige of the speakers
more than it affects social traits. Additionally, the results show that
variation in consonants is important beyond the intelligibility of accents since
they directly influence the perception of the speaker.

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