Friday, 1 November 2013

Linguists have accent opinions too!

Linguists have to spend quite a lot of time explaining that they don't correct people's grammar, and trying to prevent people from judging each other based on the language they use, and trying to explain that one standard language is not inherently better than a non-standard version or a different standard version.

But you know, we're people too, and we have human opinions. This was an exchange between two linguists:

As you can see, the second linguist, as well as the one mentioned in the first tweet, have negative opinions of their own regional dialects. I also know another linguist who said that she didn't think she'd be taken seriously as an academic if she used the accent she grew up with.

It seems that we need to distinguish between disliking an accent and thinking that it's wrong or worse than the standard. We know that all dialects (and indeed languages) are equally valid, equally correct and equally suitable for use. This is where we differ from many non-linguists, who often think that a person speaks in a non-standard way because they're lazy or stupid. We also know that objectively, accents don't sound stupid or unfriendly or untrustworthy: those are values projected onto speakers of that dialect by the listener. We're like non-linguists, though, in thinking that some accents are simply not as suited to our own preference. And we also know how much people judge you based solely on the way you speak - more reason than any other to moderate your accent if you think people might regard it unfavourably.

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