|credit: Cardiff University|
The study to be commented on here is of the overt1 questioning type,
i.e. in this study people are directly and openly questioned about their beliefs as regards language varieties. Informants give scaled responses to such varieties. In the study at hand, data were collected on people's evaluations of 34 accents of English including non-native accents. Unlike in some of the studies by Giles and collaborators in the 1970s, the 5010 informants of this web-based study were not presented with spoken guises of accents but with labels such as 'Birmingham accent', 'Queen's English', 'English with a German accent' etc. The main focus was on these two questions (i.e. semantic dimensions):
- How much prestige do you think is associated with this accent?
- How pleasant do you think this accent sounds?
As regards prestige Queen's English ranks highest (= 1) followed by Standard English (= 2), the accent identical to the one of the informant (= 3), Edinburgh (= 4) and Scottish (= 5). The accent with the lowest rank in prestige is Birmingham (= 34); less low in prestige are Asian (= 33), Black Country (= 32), Liverpool (= 31) and Afro-Caribbean (= 30). To have a German accent in English puts you on rank position 23 on a par with Newcastle.
Standard English gets the highest rank for social attractiveness, followed by the accent identical to the informant's own accent; next come Southern Irish, Scottish and Edinburgh. Bad luck, on the other hand, for Birmingham (= 34 again), Black Country, German, Asian and Liverpool (= 30).
The upshot of my report is:
ʧøːmən ʔiŋliʃ ʔis soːʃəli ʔinʔɛtrɛktif
Dear German university students of English: Take these results to heart, will you?
1The opposite is a covert study in which the researcher tries to reveal tacit opinions and preferences held by the informants.