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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Teachers’ evaluations of foreign-accented speech Martin, Karen L.


This study gathered empirical data concerning teachers' evaluations of foreign-accented speech. It was hypothesized that these evaluations would indicate the teachers' underlying attitudes to the speakers of the language varieties presented. Current literature states that these attitudes will conform to a particular ethnic stereotype and the intent of this investigation was to examine the presence and extent of such biases in Vancouver teachers. The administration of language stimuli and semantic differential scales to a subject population indicates how favourable or unfavourable the Ss will be toward the language variety and subsequently, to the speakers themselves. In order to investigate the possible presence of stereotyped attitudes to foreign-accented speakers, all subjects were presented with language stimuli and semantic differential scales. The language stimuli consisted of two levels of foreign-accented English speech from the following language groups: 1) Chinese, 2) Quebecois, and 3) Punjabi, in addition to two standard English samples used both as a control and for purposes of comparison. The semantic differential scales were designed to elicit the reactions of the Ss on four dependent variables of speech, personal, social distance and work characteristics. One hundred and nineteen practicing and prospective teachers attending courses at UBC were administered the experiment in eight sessions. The sample was identified as coming from the Vancouver district and was representative of the target population. The data collected were analysed using a repeated measures analysis of variance and the Bonferroni t-test. Evaluations of the slight and heavy foreign accents were compared to those of the standard English speech, revealing negative stereotyped attitudes on the speech (t=14.51, p <0.01) and personal (t=12.23, p <0.01) variables. Insignificant findings were reported for the social distance variable and a significant t (t=5.72, p <0.01) on the work variable indicated positive stereotyped attitudes for the ethnic groups. Stereotypes conforming to a predicted pattern were not significant, though a supplementary analysis revealed a new pattern for the Quebecois-accented speakers (t=3.37, p<0.01). Analyses performed on the three slightly-accented speakers compared to the three heavily-accented speakers within accent groups revealed significant results on the speech variable (Chinese: t=6.59, Quebecois: t=7.37, Punjabi: t=6.73, p <0.01), indicating stereotyped attitudes are a function of accent broadness. A significant result (p <0.05) for the Punjabi-accented speakers on social distance and the insignificant findings on personal and work further indicate stereotyping. An additional analysis comparing the two standard English speakers found differentiations, not according to stereotypes but to paralinguistic features on speech (t=14.36, p <0.01), personal (t=7.67, p <0.01) and social distance (t=9.84, p <0.01). The result on the work characteristics was insignificant. A repeated measures analysis of variance revealed ethnicity of listener was the only teacher characteristic to yield a significant result on the personal (F=8.21, df=3/115, p <0.01) and work (F=3.85, df=3/115, p <0.05) variables, indicating this characteristic mediated these teachers' ratings. This study concluded with a discussion of the practical and research implications of these results.

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