University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Sociolinguistics Seminar > Why ELF won’t SIT: English as a Lingua Franca and Social Identity Theory

Why ELF won’t SIT: English as a Lingua Franca and Social Identity Theory

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr Laura Wright.

All interested in any facet of sociolinguistics welcome.

English is the global lingua franca (ELF) 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 ELF 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 is 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.

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). Research on attitudes of NNS of English towards their own (ingroup) NNS accent and other (outgroup) accents of English has been largely neglected.

There are, in fact, only a handful of studies on how NNS perceive their own accent of English. These studies reveal conflicting results as they suggest that NNS of English:
  • a) identify with an accent of English that clearly reveals their first language (McKenzie 2008),
  • b) consider their own first language to be their source of identification and not their accent of English (Derwing 2003),
  • c) show ambivalent attitudes towards their own NNS accents, i.e. neither of the above (Jenkins 2007).

Additionally, I will present results of my own studies which do not fully resolve the above-mentioned conflicting results and uncertainties but which may help to understand why they exist.

References

  • 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.
  • 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.

This talk is part of the Sociolinguistics Seminar series.

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