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“Why should I talk proper?”: Critiquing the requirement for spoken standard English in English secondary schools

Austin, Shaun (2014) “Why should I talk proper?”: Critiquing the requirement for spoken standard English in English secondary schools. PhD thesis, University of York.

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This thesis explores the relationship between identity and the linguistic style used by adolescent pupils during classroom presentations, with a focus on working-class pupils. It was prompted by the requirement in the education system for pupils to speak standard English, a requirement felt by some to be socially biased against working-class pupils who are more likely to have nonstandard speech features. Seventy-six pupils were withdrawn from their English classes (in friendship groups of three) to take part in the study. They were recorded making a series of one-minute presentations in two conditions: when playing a role and when speaking as themselves. They completed questionnaires designed to generate social profiles. Presentations were transcribed and phonetic, lexico-grammatical and para-linguistic variables (eg formal v informal) were marked. Correlations were sought between linguistic variables and a range of social factors: the two presentation conditions, social profiles, social class backgrounds and genders. These were explored in more depth using qualitative analysis methods. The results showed that identity had a strong impact on the linguistic choices pupils made: when working-class pupils were speaking as themselves they used more localised and informal linguistic variants; conversely, when they were playing a role they were able to adopt a wider range of linguistic features. I hypothesise that this is because when pupils are speaking as themselves they are under pressure to maintain an authentic identity and their linguistic style must be congruent with their background. Furthermore, pupils were found to signal the attitudes they held through their linguistic style. The findings contribute to our understanding of the impact of identity on linguistic style. They also suggest that the educational focus on the narrow issue of standardness misses important issues of identity construction which are more salient in showing how adolescents perceive themselves and are perceived by others.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: standard English, sociolinguistics, accent, dialect, education, adolescence, identity, language prescription, language planning National Curriculum, linguistic style
Academic Units: The University of York > Language and Linguistic Science (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.657028
Depositing User: Mr Shaun Austin
Date Deposited: 21 Jul 2015 10:58
Last Modified: 08 Sep 2016 13:32
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/9362

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