Attitudes to language

Attitudes to language. By Peter Garrett. (Key topics in sociolinguistics.) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Pp. x, 257. ISBN 9780521 59175. $39.99.

Reviewed by Irene Theodoropoulou, Qatar University

This book delves into one of the most important aspects of the social life of language, which involves attitudes about language. Ch. 1 contextualizes attitudes by suggesting that they can be examined at all levels of linguistic analysis and in different contexts, including in words, accents, grammar, language, standardization of language, and code-switching.

Ch. 2 discusses the notion and structure of linguistic attitudes, which can be viewed as comprising cognition, affect, and behavior. This chapter introduces some major debates on the durability and stability of attitudes along with their relationship to interconnected terms, such as habits, values, beliefs, opinions, social stereotypes, and ideologies. Ch. 3 considers both strengths and weaknesses of and similarities and differences between three major approaches to the study of language attitudes: direct approach, indirect approach, and societal treatment studies.

Chs. 4 and 5 delve into the indirect measure of matched and verbal guise techniques. Ch. 4 focuses on research conducted on native varieties of English, primarily in Anglo-speaking countries, while Ch. 5 reports on attitudes about other languages, including French, varieties of Arabic, Japanese, varieties of Spanish, and Welsh. The main argument put forward is that attitudes are not monolithic but rather vary among social groups, localities, accent strength, interactional contexts, and ethnolinguistic vitality.

Ch. 6 reviews research on attitudes toward non-linguistic communicative features (e.g. lexical provenance, diversity, and speech rate), speaker variables (e.g. appearance, social class, sex, and age), hearer variables (e.g. ethnocentrism, mood, and expertise), and context (e.g. institutional, personal, and cultural). Ch. 7 discusses communication accommodation theory and takes the reader through its transformation from a sociopsychological model, aiming to analyze bilingual and accent shifts in interactions, to a more interdisciplinary model that can explain identity construction in interactions.

Ch. 8 considers research on language attitudes in legal, health, education, and employment contexts. Two important issues arising here are discrimination and social stereotyping being reproduced through these studies, coupled with issues of biased samples, which prevent researchers from getting an objective picture. Ch. 9 looks into societal treatment studies in consumer advertisements and linguistic landscapes, arguing that this type of study is far from being preliminary, contrary to what social psychological studies have claimed.

Ch. 10 discusses in detail three types of direct approaches: a discursive social constructionist approach, a comparative approach on language attitudes and issues of ethnicity in diasporic communities, and an online survey of language attitudes in the United Kingdom. Ch. 11 presents folk-linguistic attitudes to ‘inner circle’ English varieties, with a particular focus on keywords, illustrating how this research can provide useful insights into the stereotyping of attitudes. Ch. 12 argues for an integrated program of language attitudes research, encompassing a questionnaire and a verbal guise study, the combination of which can yield a fine-grained picture of language attitudes. Ch. 13 concludes the book by highlighting the pervasiveness of language attitudes in social life and the subsequent need to tackle them in the disambiguation of sociolinguistic complexity.

Despite some minor typos, the book is certainly a useful source for linguists and psychologists alike, who are interested in social aspects of language.