Speaking of Prejudice:
Examining implicit and explicit language attitudes in England
What is the project about?
The Speaking of Prejudice research project investigates deeply embedded (implicit) and self-reported attitudes towards accents spoken in the north and the south of England. The evaluations of over 300 English nationals, from throughout the country, were collected and analysed. In order to uncover any language attitude changes in progress in England – and the social groups leading this change – the project also examines differences in evaluations of Northern English and Southern English speech in terms of study participants’ gender, age, regional affiliation in England and social dominance orientation.
Project aims and implications
A key objective of Speaking of Prejudice is to raise awareness – amongst the general public, language policy makers and researchers – of the social and educational implications of listeners’ conscious and more deeply embedded implicit prejudices towards particular accents spoken in England. Nonetheless, it is essential that linguistic researchers are sensitive to public views about language diversity and take their perceptions with the seriousness they deserve.
The findings of the study show that accent evaluations – and especially at implicit levels – reflect broader group norms. The results also reveal the complex nature of public perceptions of language variation in England and the understanding obtained provide a framework for more meaningful dialogue between professional linguists and the English public about language-related topics. Ultimately, this dialogue can help overcome linguistic biases in England and elsewhere.