Language attitudes are evaluative reactions to different language varieties. They reflect, at least in part, two sequential cognitive processes: social categorization and stereotyping. First, listeners use linguistic cues (e.g., accent) to infer speakers’ social group membership(s). Second, based on that categorization, they attribute to speakers stereotypic traits associated with those inferred group membership(s). Language attitudes are organized along two evaluative dimensions: status (e.g., intelligent, educated) and solidarity (e.g., friendly, pleasant). Past research has primarily focused on documenting attitudes toward standard and nonstandard language varieties. Standard varieties are those that adhere to codified norms defining correct usage in terms of grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary, whereas nonstandard varieties are those that depart from such norms in some manner (e.g., pronunciation). Standard and nonstandard varieties elicit different evaluative reactions along the status and solidarity dimensions. Status attributions are based primarily on perceptions of socioeconomic status. Because standard varieties tend to be associated with dominant socioeconomic groups within a given society, standard speakers are typically attributed more status than nonstandard speakers. Solidarity attributions tend to be based on in-group loyalty. Language is an important symbol of social identity, and people tend to attribute more solidarity to members of their own linguistic community, especially when that community is characterized by high or increasing vitality (i.e., status, demographics, institutional support). As a result, nonstandard language varieties can sometimes possess covert prestige in the speech community in which they are the speech norms. Language attitudes are socialized early in life. At a very young age, children tend to prefer their own language variety. However, most (if not all) children gradually acquire the attitudes of the dominant group, showing a clear status preference for standard over nonstandard varieties around the first years of formal education and sometimes much earlier. Language attitudes can be socialized through various agents, including educators, peers, family, and the media. Because language attitudes are learned, they are inherently prone to change. Language attitudes may change in response to shifts in intergroup relations and government language policies, as well as more dynamically as a function of the social comparative context in which they are evoked. Once evoked, language attitudes can have myriad behavioral consequences, with negative attitudes typically promoting prejudice, discrimination, and problematic social interactions.
Margaret Kettle and Susy Macqueen
Language is fundamental to teaching and learning, yet is prone to invisibility in education systems. Drawing on work from applied linguistics that foregrounds language use in education, a “power” heuristic can be used to highlight linguistic privilege and its implications for students and their individual language repertoires. Language can be understood as a tool for performing particular interpersonal and ideational functions; its structure and uses are determined by context. For most students, experiences of language that is education-related reside in three core domains: the home and community, the school, and the nation state. Language expectations in these domains vary and position the linguistic repertoires of students differently. A key consideration is the student’s first language and its relationship to the expectations and privileged varieties of different institutions, for example, the local school and the national education department. By foregrounding linguistic privilege in education, the alignment, or misalignment, between students’ language resources and the prevailing language norms of educational institutions is made visible and open to change. Inherent in the level of alignment are issues of educational inclusion, access to powerful language forms and genres, and academic achievement. The concept of power affordances can be used to refer to the enabling potential of the relationship between language status, language affiliation and a student’s linguistic repertoire. Power affordances can operate as three broad potentials, capabilities or statuses: socioeconomic power, which resides in the language of global and state institutions ranging from government to schools and manifests in instruments such as national standardized tests; sociocognitive power, which enables the capacity to learn and recognizes the language intensity of knowledge; and identity power, which references social belonging and is strongly indexed to language. Conceptualizing language and its power affordances in education provides a useful framework for understanding the relationship between students’ language resources and the often implicit linguistic demands and practices of education systems. It also highlights the rich potential of applied linguistics in understanding education.