Language use evokes social evaluations and thus influences people’s perceptions of others. These social evaluations are omnipresent, but so far little is known about how they emerge and take shape.
This project inquires into the emergence of children’s language attitudes by pinpointing the development of three components of social evaluation attested in adults: dimensionality, predictable variability, and automaticity. To this end, two experimental studies investigate the specific case of how children aged 8-9, 10-11, and 12-13 attach social meaning to English lexical resources in Belgian Dutch. Both studies innovate established methodologies, enabling this project to explore unanswered questions while ensuring reliability. Study 1 consists of a base design where respondents listen to speech samples in Belgian Dutch produced by the same speaker that vary on one lexical element, representing either English (e.g. “backpack”) or Dutch (e.g. “rugzak”). Two further sub-studies vary this design on word-related and speaker-related parameters. Study 2 entails a child-friendly version of the Personalized Implicit Association Test (P-IAT), a reaction time based measure that allows to study automaticity in social evaluations. By covering the new ground of the emergence of social evaluation, this project contributes to the nascent field of developmental sociolinguistics and allows for novel insights into the social meaning of language variation more broadly