The Role of Variety Recognition in Japanese University Students’ Attitudes Towards English Speech Varieties

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Abstract

Language attitude studies have tended to assume that informants who listen to and evaluate speech stimuli are able to identify with consistent accuracy the varieties of English in question. However, misidentification could reduce the validity of any results obtained, particularly when it involves the evaluations of non-native English-speaking informants, who are likely to have had less exposure to varieties of English speech. The present study investigated the perceptions of 558 Japanese university students of six varieties of English speech. The results indicated that whilst evaluations of speakers of UK and US English were particularly positive in terms of status, a Japanese speaker of heavily–accented English was rated most favourably in terms of social attractiveness. The findings from an additional dialect recognition question demonstrated that accurate identification had a significant positive effect upon the perceived status of native varieties of English, suggesting a tendency amongst the informants to look to native speakers to provide ‘notions of correctness’. 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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-153
JournalJournal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development
Volume29
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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