Date of Award

1-1-2011

Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Department

Linguistics

First Advisor

Tracey L Weldon

Abstract

This thesis investigates how speakers living in linguistically stigmatized and lin-guistically prestigious regions in the United States and Germany view standard and non-standard dialects in their respective countries. Hereby, it is examined in what ways the possession of the standard dialect relates to linguistic prestige and its absence to linguistic stigma.

Comprehending the ways in which attitudes toward standard and non-standard dialects influence speakers' daily interactions with other members of society can ulti-mately yield a deeper understanding of the mechanisms involved in linguistic discrimina-tion, which can hopefully help to reduce this last-standing and hidden means to exclude certain members of society only because of their language behavior.

While the majority of participants believe that a standard variety exists in their re-spective country, most of them do not believe that they themselves speak the standard; rather, they believe that they speak a non-standard dialect. Speakers in the United States as well as in Germany have clear ideas about the regional and social position of the stan-dard although, in theory, they believe that the standard is not limited to certain geographi-cal regions or social positions. Remarkably, participants are not convinced that the stan-dard is fundamentally better and more valuable than non-standard dialects, although de-scriptive adjectives chosen by them suggest that participants do indeed view the standard dialect to be a positive notion, i.e., they do not completely dismiss any evaluative under-takings.

Nationality, i.e., whether speakers are American or German, shapes their linguistic attitudes to a greater extent than regionality, i.e., whether they come from a linguistically stigmatized or linguistically prestigious region. This result demonstrates that the unique history of participants' respective countries have a greater influence on their linguistic beliefs than their living in a linguistically stigmatized or prestigious region.

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