In the past decade, anglicism research has shifted towards a more socio-pragmatic perspective centering on the social meaning and pragmatic aspects of English insertions in receptor languages (Peterson & Beers Fägersten 2018). Particular attention has been given to identifying semantic fields and societal roles more prone to the use of English than others (Winter-Froemel et al. 2012): compare IT and gamer (more English-prone) to education and teacher (less English-prone). Research on this topic has mainly taken production perspectives (though see Peterson & Vaattovaara 2014), whereas this paper foregrounds “language regard” (Preston 2010) by adopting a perceptual-attitudinal approach to the matter.
This study’s aim is to investigate whether the indexical link between certain societal roles and the use of English is reflected in the minds of individuals and to what extent this indexical knowledge is shared on the community-level. Furthermore, we are interested in the – potentially shared – evaluation
of the use of English by speakers with these societal roles. Focusing on the Dutch-English contact situation in the Low Countries, this paper addresses the following research questions:
RQ1. What perceptions are held towards the use of English in Dutch in the broader speech community for different societal roles?
RQ2. What attitudes are adopted towards the use of English in Dutch by speakers with these societal roles: are some roles judged to be more entitled to use English in Dutch than others?
RQ3. Do we find community shared indexical and attitudinal patterns for RQ1-2?
The research questions are addressed through an online survey containing open questions and 7-point Likert scales, measuring the extent to which a societal role is perceived to be English-prone and assessing how speakers with these societal roles, when drawing on English lexical resources, are
evaluated. We included a sample of 19 roles, relying on previously identified English- and Dutch-prone semantic fields for which we selected possible roles based on an inventory of English and Dutch person reference nouns (cf. Zenner et al. 2012). Per semantic field, up to 4 roles were selected. The survey was completed by 407 Dutch-speaking respondents with ages varying from 15 to 79 years old (M=36.9, SD=15.0).
Our results clearly indicate shared indexical knowledge about roles that are perceived to be English-prone (e.g. gamer, vlogger, film star) and Dutch-prone (e.g. grandparents, farmer, teacher). The overall evaluation of the use of English in these roles turned out to be predominately neutral.
However, slightly elevated negative attitudes were found for all public functions (e.g. newsreader, teacher, prime minister). Delving into these individual and shared perceptions and evaluations on the use of English, this paper sets the scene for further research efforts prioritizing perceptual-attitudinal dimensions of contact-induced language variation.
Peterson, Elizabeth & Kristy Beers Fägersten (eds). 2018. Linguistic and pragmatic outcomes of contact with English. Journal of Pragmatics 133. Special issue. Peterson, Elizabeth & Johanna Vaattovaara. 2014. Kiitos and pliis: The relationship of native and borrowed politeness markers in Finnish. Journal of Politeness Research 10(2). 247-269.
Preston, Dennis R. 2010. Variation in language regard. In P. Gilles, J. Scharloth & E. Ziegler (eds.), Variatio delectat: Empirische Evidenzen und theoretische Passungen sprachlicher Variation. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang. 7- 27.
Winter-Froemel, Esme, Onysko Alexander & Calude Andreea. 2012. Why some non-catachrestic borrowings are more successful than others: A case study of English loans in German. In A. Koll-Stobbe & S. Knospe (eds.), Language contact in times of globalization. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang. 119–144.
Zenner, Eline, Dirk Speelman & Dirk Geeraerts. 2012. Cognitive Sociolinguistics meets loanword research: Measuring variation in the success of anglicisms in Dutch. Cognitive Linguistics 23(4). 749–792.
- language perception
- language attitudes
- linguistic stereotypes
- social meaning
- language contact
- English loans