Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Sat Mar 10 15:15:11 UTC 2007

A Quantitative Study of the Attitudes of Japanese Learners towards
Varieties of English Speech: Aspects of the Sociolinguistics of English in

University of Edinburgh
Linguistics and English Language

Author: Robert M McKenzie

A Quantitative Study of the Attitudes of Japanese
Learners towards Varieties of English Speech: Aspects of the
Sociolinguistics of English in Japan

Dissertation URL: http://www.era.lib.ed.ac.uk//handle/1842/1519

Dissertation Director: John E. Joseph Graeme Trousdale

Dissertation Abstract:

Language attitude studies focussing specifically on native speaker
perceptions of varieties of English speech have demonstrated consistently
that standard varieties tend to be evaluated positively in terms of
competence/status whilst non-standard varieties are generally rated higher
in terms of social attractiveness/solidarity. However, the great majority
of studies which have investigated non-native attitudes have tended to
measure evaluations of 'the English language', conceptualised as a single
entity, thus ignoring the substantial regional and social variation within
the language. This is somewhat surprising considering the importance of
attitudes towards language variation in the study of second language
acquisition and in sociolinguistics. More specifically, there is a dearth
of in-depth quantitative attitude research in Japan concentrating
specifically on social evaluations of varieties of English, as the limited
number of previous studies conducted amongst Japanese learners have either
been qualitative in design or too small in scale. Moreover, the findings
of these studies have been somewhat inconclusive.

The present quantitative study, employing a range of innovative direct and
indirect techniques of attitude measurement, investigated the perceptions
of 558 Japanese university students of six varieties of English speech.
The results obtained suggest that Japanese learners are able to
differentiate between speech varieties within a single language of which
they are not native speakers and hold different and often complex
attitudes towards (a)  standard/non-standard and (b) native/non-native
varieties of English speech. For instance, the learners rated both the
standard and non-standard varieties of inner circle speech more highly
than varieties of expanding circle English in terms of prestige. In
contrast, it was found that the learners expressed higher levels of
solidarity with the Japanese speaker of heavily-accented English and
intriguingly, with speakers of non-standard varieties of UK and US English
than with speakers of standard varieties of inner circle English.
Moreover, differences in the Japanese students' gender, level of
self-perceived competence in English, level of exposure to English and
attitudes towards varieties of Japanese all had significant main effects
on perceptions of varieties of English speech. However, the regional
provenance of the informants was not found to be significant in
determining their language attitudes. The results also imply that Japanese
learners retain representations of varieties of English speech and draw
upon this resource, whether consciously or unconsciously, in order to
identify and evaluate (speakers of) these speech varieties.

The findings are discussed in relation to the pedagogical and language
planning implications for the choice of linguistic model in English
language teaching both inside and outwith Japan and in terms of the
methodological importance of the study for potential future attitudinal
research in this area.



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