A social-psychological study of foreign learners' attitudes and behaviours towards model varieties of English speech
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This thesis attempts to bridge the gap between Social Psychology and Sociolinguistics by exploring the relationship between language attitudes and language use. Using a sample of 71 university students in Spain, it investigates how learners deal with phonological variation in the English language, what language attitudes are held towards American and British models of English speech and which social and psychological factors are linked with learners’ language attitudes and language use. A social-psychological model was adopted and adapted, allowing learners’ use of intervocalic /t/ to be successfully predicted from measures of attitude, subjective norm and perceived behavioural control. Direct measures of learners’ preferred accent and pronunciation class were also highly predictive of learners’ language use. Several trends were found in the attitudinal data. Firstly, British English speech was rated more favourably overall, though American English speech was often viewed as more socially attractive. Secondly, the evaluative dimensions of competence and social attractiveness were salient amongst learners in the Spanish context. Each of these findings endorses those of previous language attitude studies conducted elsewhere. Thirdly, female speakers were consistently rated more favourably than male speakers; thus, highlighting the need for further investigation into the variable of speaker sex. Familiarity with the speech varieties under investigation – most often gained through education, media exposure, time spent abroad and/or contact with native speakers – seemed to result in learners challenging rigid stereotypes and expressing more individualised attitudes. Overall, British speech emerged as formal and functional, while American speech was thought to fulfil more informal and interpersonal functions. This thesis provides compelling evidence of attitude-behaviour relations, adds to the growing volume of language attitude research being conducted across the globe, and establishes – for the first time – which social and psychological variables are relevant and salient within English-language learning contexts in Spain.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: Electronic copy restricted until 13th October 2019
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations
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