Attitudes to non-native speakers’ varieties : Theoretical and methodical considerations based on a Finnish case study

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Title: Attitudes to non-native speakers’ varieties : Theoretical and methodical considerations based on a Finnish case study
Author: Sundqvist, Katrin
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Arts, Department of Modern Languages
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2018
Language: eng
Thesis level: master's thesis
Discipline: yleinen kielitiede
General Linguistics
Allmän språkvetenskap
Abstract: This master’s thesis treats native speakers’ attitudes to non-native speakers’ spoken vernacular and standard varieties. It examines which theoretical factors researchers have to pay special regard to when studying attitudes to non-native variation. Based on these factors, the thesis evaluates which methods of the language attitude paradigm suit the study of attitudes to non-native speakers’ varieties best. As theoretical background serves the Communication Accommodation Theory in its adapted form for intercultural communication. The thesis draws upon previous findings on relevant factors for the study of native varieties, upon previous findings on relevant factors for the study of non-native language and upon previous findings on the nature of non-native varieties. In order to gain further insights, a case study is conducted. The case study examines native Finnish speakers’ preference of non-native Finnish vernacular and standard varieties. As methods, it employs both a matched- and verbal-guise listening test and a direct question approach. Furthermore, it gathers the respondents’ justifications for their speaker choices in the listening test. The justifications allow an insight into the respondents’ attitudes to the varieties. A non-random sample of 101 native Finnish speaking students from the University of Helsinki is tested. The speaker choices in the listening test are analysed by statistical means (chi-square test). The answers to the direct question and the justifications for the speaker choices are classified into groups of similar answers. The results gained by the listening test and the results gained by the direct question are compared. The findings suggest that the students do not prefer either non-native variety per se. Their variety preference depends on the communication situation. The students do not prefer the same varieties in the case of native and of non-native speakers. While both non-native varieties may sound nice, enthusiastic, self-confident and clear, only vernacular speakers are seen as particularly natural, authentic, relaxed and close to native Finnish speakers. Only standard speakers are associated with professionality in a broad sense, but leave in some cases the impression of sounding foreigner-like or not natural. Differently than in earlier studies on non-native vernaculars, the non-native Finnish vernacular is thus seen as mainly positive. The results of the two different methods do not match. Either or both of them can thus not be fully reliable. This thesis shows that native speakers’ attitudes to non-native varieties are not necessarily the same as to native varieties. Attitudes to non-native varieties have to be studied in their own right, thus. A multitude of factors influences the formation of attitudes to non-native varieties. Non-native and native varieties differ from each other in their form, in the way they are learnt, used and perceived as well as in what they express. Non-native language not as objectively produced by the non-native speakers, but as subjectively perceived by the native interlocutors influences attitudes. Furthermore, attitudes to non-native varieties are likely even more prone to the social desirability bias than attitudes to native varieties. Methods that elicit the respondents’ attitudes directly should thus be avoided. The findings of the Finnish case study indicate that also matched-guise tests may suffer from the social desirability bias because of variety recognition. Furthermore, voice recognition is an increasing problem in the digital age. Most methods of the language attitude paradigm do not study natural language data in real-life communication situations. This thesis reveals the need for more innovative research designs. It suggests therefore several methods that researchers of attitudes to non-native variation may employ in future.
Subject: non-native variety
language attitudes
second language
sociolinguistic competence
advanced proficiency
register learning
intercultural communication
Communication Accommodation Theory
matched-guise study
Subject (yso): suomi toisena kielenä
vieraskielinen opetus
sosiolingvistiset ilmiöt
kansainvälinen viestintä
integraatio -- Eurooppa

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