The literature in
the field of sociolinguistics has covered the analysis of language variation,
language attitudes and linguistic discrimination.
purpose of this essay is to explore and define the relationship between
previously stated concepts, using relevant examples from studies which have
focused on analysing daily conversations
In order to determine this
relationship, several authors
have explained the
variation, language attitudes and linguistic discrimination
. In addition to these explanations, examples from
have been utilised in order to illustrate the noticeable relationship between
the stated concepts. Furthermore, other studies
conducted in order to demonstrate that people maintain different language
attitudes towards other languages and
to identify the relationship between the three
concepts within the workplace.
Language variation is a subject that has been
analysed not only in the field of sociolinguistics, but also in
psycholinguistics and linguistics (Krug and Schluter, 2013). However, this
assignment will focus on the analysis of language variation within the field of
sociolinguistics. Language variation is related to the manner in which language
varies and the elements which lead to the employment of one form of the
language instead of another (Krug and Schluter, 2013). In this case, Stockwell
(2007) has determined the most important factors which lead to language
variation including occupation, age, sex, class, and ethnicity. Furthermore,
Wardhaugh (1986) admits that each language has its own variations and that
language variation is influenced by social factors such as the social group and
the geographic zone. Moreover, Bell (2014, p. 103) has explained that “a
variety is a relatively distinguishable form of a language, often based on
geographical or social differences”. For example, taking England into consideration,
it can be noted that there are language varieties such as Standard English,
Oxford English and London English (Wardhaugh, 1986).
This proves that one language has distinct
Several definitions have been formulated in order to
explain language variation. For example, Labov
1972, p. 323
language variations as “different ways of saying the same thing”. In this case,
“runnin” and “running” are two distinct versions that express the same idea
(Bayley & Lucas, 2007). Similarly, Hudson (1996, p. 22) defines language
variation as “a set of linguistic items with similar distribution”.
Furthermore, Lippi-Green (2012, p. 38) explains that “we exploit linguistic
variation available to us in order to send a complex series of messages about
ourselves and the way we position ourselves in the world”. It can be argued
that individuals identify variation in the conversations of others and this is
used to create an opinion about that person (Lippi-Green, 2012). As a result of
this latter definition, language variation leads to language attitudes.
Allport (1954) defines an attitude as “a learned
disposition to think, feel and behave towards a person in a particular way”.
This definition suggests that an attitude is not inherent, but learned and that
individuals have mastered attitudes throughout the process of becoming part of
society, thus making the person react towards the social world in a favourable
or unfavourable way (Sarnoff, 1970).
It can be noted that language attitudes are a
Garrett (2010) explains that
language attitudes have the role of creating opinions about other speakers, by
judging their speech. Furthermore, Garett, Couplanf and Williams (2003) have
studied the origins of language attitudes; they have admitted that attitudes
are formed based upon the language varieties and have also found that language
attitudes create either advantageous or disadvantageous opinions surrounding
the speakers. Similarly, Garrett (2010) has focused on determining from where
language attitudes arise. He has mentioned that a variety of factors including
the individual experience and the social surroundings create language
attitudes. The literature in this field emphasises the fact that there are two
types of attitudes: positive and negative (Garett, Couplanf and Williams,
2003). In this case, Gerard (2012) explains
that people are likely to
believe that the manner in which they themselves speak is the correct way;
hence the other varieties are wrong. As a result,
these attitudes are classified into positive
attitudes and negative attitudes. The negative attitudes lead to linguistic
discrimination amongst speakers.
According to Pool (1987), linguistic discrimination is related to an
unequal treatment of languages, thus creating unequal linguistic attitudes.
This concept is related to the discriminatory treatment of a person based upon
their utilisation of a language. It can be argued that one form of language
discrimination is linguicism.
and Cummins (1988, p. 13) have defined linguicism as “ideologies, structures
and practices which are used to legitimate, effectuate and reproduce an unequal
division of power and resources (material and immaterial) between groups which
are defined on the basis of language”. Furthermore,
Rubagumya (1991) has
argued that the effects of the
are related to the fact that majority languages of many developed countries are
imposed, whereas minority languages are ignored.
Lippi-Green (2012) explains that the Civil Rights Act created Title VII
in order to ensure that employees could not be discriminated against due to
aspects such as age, sex and ethnicity. In addition to this rule, the employer
is not allowed to discriminate against applicants based on their own attitudes
toward the language variation that the applicant uses.
However, it has been accepted that “an
adverse employment decision may be predicated upon an individual’s accent when
– and only when – it interferes materially with job performance” (Lippi-Green
2012, p. 150). As a result, an employee cannot be rejected on the basis of
linguistic discrimination. However, this is not the situation in the workplace.
Taking into consideration the situation in the United Kingdom, numerous
examples within the workplace relating to linguistic discrimination can be noted.
However, people who are linguistically discriminated against in the workplace
have adapted and so it does not occur unexpectedly.
In order to illustrate linguistic discrimination at the workplace, the
General Accounting Office conducted research which reported that 461,000
nationwide companies admitted that when they hired people, they had
linguistically discriminated against the employees with foreign accents
(Lippi-Green 2012). Moreover, a research related to the discrimination of the
applicants for advertised jobs has proved that the employers initially conduct
telephone interviews in order to detect whether the applicant has an accent
(Lippi-Green 2012). These evidences have been also highlighted in Carroll
versus Elliott Personnel Services (1985), where it is argued that one employee
of a recruitment agency was asked to screen all the candidates over the
telephone in order to detect the persons who had a relevant accent (Lippi-Green
between Language Variation, Language Attitudes and Linguistic Discrimination
Taking into consideration the discussions and the
definitions provided above about language variation, language attitudes and
linguistic discrimination, it can be argued that their particularities are
related. Giles and Coupland (1991) have emphasised the fact that language
attitudes and language variations cannot be regarded separately because a
stable relationship exists between them. Language attitudes are usually
constructed by assessing the speakers’ language variety, including dialects and
accents due to the nature of language. Similarly, Meyerhoff (2006) has argued
that attitudes concerning distinct varieties of languages may lead people to
have different attitudes towards individuals that use those language varieties.
As a result, the concept of language attitudes is a social, not linguistic,
phenomenon and has a strong relationship with language variation (Giles and
Coupland, 1991). Moreover,
Gerard (2012) explains that language attitudes demonstrate the linguistic
preferences which people hold and on which they judge other peoples’ speech.
Similarly, Meyerhoff (2006) argues that people make
assumptions about others by judging the manner in which they speak.
As a result, language
attitudes can be classified
based upon a
person’s language variety and this will be further discussed in the following
Lippi-Green (2012) has identified examples from
daily life in which the relationship between language variation, language
attitudes and linguistic discrimination is visible. An example in this case is
related to Disney cartoons that utilise language variation in order to
reinforce different attitudes about each character’s speech.
In Disney cartoons,
characters are linguistically discriminated against due to the language
variation that they use. For example, main characters in cartoons possess the
so-called “Standard American/English accent”, whereas the other characters have
different accents. This leads to the conclusion that said characters may not be
regarded as significant as those characters that possess a British or US
standard accent (Gerard, 2012).
An opening line from the animated Disney movie
was accused of discrimination.
The line, “Where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face/ It’s
barbaric, but hey, it’s home”, has since been changed (Lippi-Green, 2012 p.
107). Although the line was altered, the accents remained the same.
Furthermore, Precker (1993) explains that the positive characters within
talk with an American accent,
whilst the bad and marginal characters have heavy Arabic accents (Lippi-Green,
2012): ‘This pounds home the message that people with a foreign accent are
bad.’ (Lippi-Green, 2012, p. 107).
Lambert et al. (1965) conducted a study in which
Arabic and Jewish students were required to rate readers in terms of their
personality characteristics. The readers were two bilingual speakers and they
were reading the exact same text in several different languages including
Arabic, Yemen Hebrew and Ashkenazi Hebrew.
The ratings prove that
people maintain different language attitudes towards another language than
; this study illustrates that
both Jewish speakers and Arabic speakers rated each other as less sincere and
less friendly. In
another study, Purnell et al. (1999) used different varieties of
English, including a Standard English accent, a Hispanic accent and an African
American accent, in order to book an appointment with landlords. All the
callers began with the following sentence: ‘Hello, I’m calling about the
apartment you have advertised in the paper’ (p. 153). The results of the
research showed that in 70% of cases the speaker with the standard American
English accent received an appointment, contrasted against only 30% for the
other accents (Gerard, 2012).
It can be argued that language attitudes have
social impact at the workplace (Bauer & Trudgill, 1998). According to
Garrett (2010), language attitudes have also been studied in the employment
area. Most of the employment decisions were based upon the speakers’ accent.
However, other elements such as speech rate have been studied. In this case,
employers preferred speakers with a regular or quicker speech rate than their
own. Hopper and Williams (1973) have first studied the language attitudes in
the job interviews (Garrett, 2010). Different varieties of English were rated
such as the standard form, south white English dialect and the ‘Black English’
dialect. People working in the recruitment process are more likely to give the
job to the person that has the most pleasant manner of speaking. By this logic,
if someone with a Glaswegian accent and someone with a Standard English accent
were applying for the job, the English candidate would get the job. Speaking
with an unpleasant accent has social consequences. It is society that judges
the speakers of different language varieties.
Distinct varieties of English are viewed
differently. In England, researchers have discovered that various accents
around the country are viewed as vulgar, such as accents from areas of London
(Lippi-Green, 2012). However, other accents, mostly from the rural zone, are
described as delightful. Every person possesses his/her own personal preferred
language or dialect sound according to Bauer and Trudgill (1998). Some dialects
have a better reputation than others. This is how people in power reinforce
standard varieties. People are taught that the manner in which they communicate
is the main element to represent their identity. Moreover, educational
academies denigrate the way in which certain ethnic groups and people that
from low working class
(2002) demonstrated in a research how states are rated for the language
pleasantness, character and correctness (Gerard 2002). In the research, people
from Michigan State rated their speech as the most correct and most enjoyable.
However, they rated Alabama State the lowest. Although those from Alabama did
not regard their own speech as the most correct, they believed that it was not
worse than others states such as Michigan. This research proves that both
people from Alabama and Michigan have distinct language attitudes towards
language varieties (Gerard 2002).
purpose of this study was to determine the relationship between the concepts of
language variation, language attitudes and linguistic discrimination. This
study has identified the relationships by using relevant examples from the
literature. The first three parts of this assignment have presented the
findings about the concepts stated above.
As a result, it can be noted that each of the above
concepts is related to the others because language attitudes are related not
only to language variation, but also to linguistic discrimination.
In order to
explain the above theory,
Coupland (1991) have argued that language attitudes, which are a social
phenomenon, and language variations cannot be regarded separately.
Meyerhoff (2006) suggests that language attitudes
are created based upon language variation. As a result, language attitudes can
be classified into positive attitudes toward a language variation, or in
negative attitudes towards a language variation. The positive language attitudes
are usually the standard language variation used by the person who is judging.
In contrast, Gerard (2012) explained that the negative language attitudes are
directed toward the language varieties other than the standard. This might lead
to linguistic discrimination amongst speakers.
Lippi-Green (2012) has argued that even in cartoon
movies, the main characters use a Standard English accent, whereas the other
characters hold different accents. Thus, different accents reinforce negative
language attitude. Moreover, Lambert et al. (1965) have conducted a study in
order to illustrate that people are likely to create a negative language
attitude towards those who use languages other than their own. Furthermore,
Garrett (2010) has explained that a negative language attitude, which is
linguistic discrimination, is present in the workplace because employers are
likely to hire people towards whom they have a positive language attitude. As a
result, people who speak the standard language variety have numerous opportunities
in contrast to those who do not speak this language variety, because decisions
are usually based upon the speaker’s speech. Furthermore, each person has
his/her language variation preference which leads to different language
attitudes. Based on the above discussion it can be argued that the relationship
between language variation, language attitudes and linguistic discrimination is
symbiotic and socially formed.
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© Raluca Diana
Papuc. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0
International Licence (CC BY).
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