- How We Feel About How We Talk: A Language Attitude Survey of Utah English
How We Feel About How We Talk: A Language Attitude Survey of Utah English
Research has shown that Utah English is a distinct variety of English, particularly as spoken in the Wasatch front region (Lillie 1998). It is characterized by particular linguistic features, including tense/lax vowel mergers before tautosyllabic /l/ (Di Paolo and Farber 1990) and the oral release of glottal stops in certain environments (Eddington and Savage 2012). The features of this variety have been studied; however, not much research has been done about the positive or negative attitudes people hold toward it. Casual observation indicates that Utahans themselves may judge speakers of this variety more harshly than do people from other regions. The present study was conducted to determine if this is true, and to determine what other factors have an influence on a person’s perception of Utah English. A language attitude study was performed using the matched-guise method. Participants were asked to react to recorded speakers, judging how intelligent and friendly they sounded. When multiple Utah English features were combined in a passage, the majority of participants judged the speaker to be unintelligent and unfriendly; also, participants’ judgments of the speakers’ intelligence deviated significantly based on the participants’ location of origin, with significant interactions between location of origin and age group. When Utah English features were looked at separately, participants’ judgments of both the speakers’ intelligence and the speakers’ friendliness deviated significantly based on which feature was being heard and the gender of the participant, with interactions between feature and gender, feature and age group, and feature and location of origin. Overall, Utahan participants judged speech with Utah English features to be worse than did participants from other locations.
Thesis Author: Savage, David Matthew
Year Completed: 2014
Thesis Chair: Eddington, David
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