Tolerance towards non-standard varieties in high standard expectancy contexts. Mixed-methods support from speech-language therapy

Ellen Rombouts, Stefan Grondelaers, Dirk Speelman, Laura Rosseel, Eline Zenner

Research output: Unpublished contribution to conferenceUnpublished abstract


This paper gauges attitudes towards non-standard varieties in high standard expectancy contexts. Through a mixed methods approach, it specifically tests the conviction that speech-language therapists (SLT) are categorically opposed to the use of non-standard varieties in their professional practice. To this end, results are presented from a speaker evaluation experiment and from semi-structured interviews in the Belgian Dutch context, known for its standard language ideology and resulting diaglossic tension between an exocentric, ideologically foregrounded yet little used standard Dutch (SD) and the endogenous non-prestigious but broadly used non-standard variety Colloquial Belgian Dutch (CBD). In the experiment, Belgian Dutch SLT students (N = 77) and a control group (N = 54) evaluate the competence of a SLT who does (not) use standard language in relational client-oriented versus transactional therapy-oriented professional discourse. Results reveal (1) a more conservative versus a more dynamic conception of ‘competence’; (2) penalization of standard language use in informal speech; (3) slightly higher sociolinguistic sensitivity for SLT respondents. The semi-structured interviews were conducted with 13 SLTs from the Flemish Brabant region, which were analyzed with thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006). Three themes emerged. (1) SLTs’ partial convergence with clients’ CBD was contingent on primary therapy goals and need for trust, (2) this convergence was a skill acquired through experience, and (3) authenticity outweighed propagating the norm. In line with the experimental results, the SLTs’ focus on therapeutic alliance justified converging with clients’ language use. A partial convergence allowed them to stay true to their professional identity. However, preservice education did not prepare them for register flexibility and authenticity. Overall, the attested tolerance towards non-standard speech in high standard expectancy contexts found through both direct and indirect methodologies begs a reconsideration of language ideology in professional communication.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2022
EventSociolinguistics Symposium 24 - Universiteit Gent, Gent, Belgium
Duration: 13 Jul 202216 Jul 2022


ConferenceSociolinguistics Symposium 24
Internet address


  • language attitudes
  • language variation and change
  • Dutch variation
  • sociolinguistics
  • social meaning of language variation
  • speech therapy
  • mixed methods


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