A quantitative study of the attitudes of Japanese learners towards varieties of English speech: Aspects of the sociolinguistics of English in Japan

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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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.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Edinburgh
Thesis sponsors
Award date12 Dec 2006
Place of PublicationEdinburgh
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 12 Dec 2006

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