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Accent and identity in `English as a lingua franca'-communication

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English is the global lingua franca and as such it is increasingly used for communication among non-native speakers (NNS) of English which outnumber native speakers (NS) of English by far (cf. Crystal 2003). In this lingua franca context NNS of English need to establish their identity through the medium of their L2. Additionally, most NNS speak English with a ‘foreign’ accent which causes certain attitudes in speakers as well as listeners and can have profound social consequences (cf. Jenkins 2007).

The emergence of attitudes towards specific accents can be regarded to be mainly an issue of social identity, which originates from group membership and is established by self-categorisation (Tajfel 1978; Turner 1987). Accents and language are considered to be major determinants of social identity for NS of any given language, however, its is not certain whether the same mechanisms apply for NNS (Derwing 2003).

Previous studies focused on the expression of social identity through people’s NS accents and their attitudes towards other NS accents (e.g. Coupland & Bishop 2007; Hiraga 2005). Similarly, there has been a lot of research on attitudes towards NNS accents of English by NS of English (e.g. Bresnahan et al. 2002; Rubin & Smith 1990). Research on attitudes of NNS of English towards their own (ingroup) NNS accent and other (outgroup) NNS accents of English has been largely neglected.

The present study looks at NNS ’ attitudes towards ingroup and outgroup NNS accents and NS accents of English, with particular interest in the solidarity dimension (i.e. how much a person identifies with an accent) and status dimension (i.e. how much prestige is assigned to an accent). A further aim is to find out whether variation in specific sounds – especially consonants – directly influences the perception of NNS accents of English, makes them sound more ‘foreign’ and evokes certain attitudes. The results will help to discover whether there are links between certain attitudes and phonetic detail and thus, will help to understand the impact of the phonetics/phonology and sociolinguistics interface in communications in English as a lingua franca.

References

Bresnahan, M.J. , Ohashi, R., Nebashi, R., Liu, W.Y. & Shearman, S.M. (2002) Attitudinal and affective response toward accented English. Language & Communication 22, 171-185.

Coupland, N. & Bishop, H. (2007) Ideologised values for British accents. Journal of Sociolinguistics 11/1, 74-93.

Crystal, D. (2003) The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2nd edition.

Derwing, T.M. (2003) What do ESL students say about their accents? Canadian Modern Language Review 59/4, 547-566.

Hiraga, Y. (2005) British attitudes towards six varieties of English in the USA and Britain. World Englishes 24/3, 289-308.

Jenkins, J. (2007) English as a Lingua Franca: Attitude and Identity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Rubin, D., Smith, K.A. (1990) Effects of accent, ethnicity, and lecture topic on undergraduates’ perception of nonnative English-speaking teaching assistants. International Journal of Intercultural Relations 14, 337-353.

Tajfel, H. (1978) Social categorization, social identity and social comparison. In: Tajfel, H. (ed.) Differentiation between Groups. London et al.: Academic Press, 61-76.

Turner, J.C. (1987) Rediscovering the Social Group – A Self-Categorization Theory. Oxford: Blackwell.

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