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					What College Students Think About Dialects
Carolyn Peluso Atkins, EdD, CCC-SLP Lauren Benson, BS Joanie Davis, BS Tracie Lewis, BS Leigh Smitley, BS Department of Speech Pathology & Audiology, West Virginia University

ABSTRACT College students responded to a two-part Likert survey on which they circled their attitudes about their dialect and dialect in general and how influential selected variables are on dialect. Respondents do not know whether or not they speak with dialects or if they want to improve the way they speak since they like it and are not embarrassed by it. Although they think that some dialects sound more educated and more professional and that dialect can hurt one’s chances of getting a job, they do not perceive that the way they speak will hurt their chances of getting jobs.

PURPOSE The purpose of this investigation was to determine college students’ attitudes regarding dialects and how much influence nine selected variables have on the way one speaks.

PROCEDURE Respondents included 138 (males = 34.8%; female s= 60.1%; NR = 5.1%) students enrolled in a general public speaking class at a public institution who represented a variety of disciplines. Their ages ranged from 18-37 with a mean age of 20.1. They listed their homes as follows: West Virginia, 39.9%; Pennsylvania, 21.8%, Ohio, 8.7%; New Jersey, 8%; Maryland, 6.5%; New York, 4.3% (Others=10.9%). Respondents completed a two-part Likert survey on which dialect was described as “involves word pronunciation (vowel and consonant production), pitch patterns, rate, grammar, vocabulary, and word order.” On Part I, they circled their attitudes on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 = I strongly disagree; 5 = I strongly agree) on twelve questions related to their dialect and their attitudes toward dialect. Table 1 presents the means and standard deviations for the 12 questions on Part I. The mean ranges were interpreted as follows: I strongly disagree, 1.00 - 1.89; I disagree, 1.90 - 2.79; I don’t know or neutral, 2.80 - 3.20; I agree, 3.21 - 4.10; I strongly agree, 4.11 - 5.00.

Table 1. Part I Items, Mean Interpretations, Means and Standard Deviations SURVEY ITEM with *Mean Interpretation *I strongly disagree….  I am embarrassed by the way that I speak.  I think that the way I speak may hurt my chances of getting the type of job that I want. *I disagree….  I stereotype people according to how they speak.  I would like to improve the way I speak. *I don’t know….  I speak with a dialect. Mean SD

1.46 1.67

.66 .79

2.61 .99 2.88 1.20

2.99 1.16

*I agree….  I think that dialect can hurt one’s chances of getting a job. 3.40 1.12  I like different dialects. 3.85 .83  I think that some dialects sound “more professional” than others. 3.85 .73  I think that some dialects sound “more educated” than others. 3.87 .70  I like the way that I speak. 3.94 .91  I think that I speak “good English.” 4.04 .77 *I strongly agree….  I speak differently according to the situation (e.g., I speak more formally in an interview or when presenting a speech in class)

4.31

.76

On Part II, they circled their attitudes on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 = Not influential; 5 = Very influential) on nine variables that influence dialect. Table 2 presents the means and standard deviations for the 9 questions on Part II. The mean ranges were interpreted as follows: Not influential, 1.00 - 1.89; Somewhat influential, 1.90 - 2.79; I don’t know or neutral, 2.80 - 3.20; Influential, 3.21 - 4.10; Very influential, 4.11 - 5.00. Table 2. Part 2 Items, Mean Interpretations, Means, and Standard Deviations SURVEY ITEM with *Mean Interpretation *Somewhat Influential…. Gender (e.g., male or female) *Influential…. Race/ethnicity (e.g., African-American, Italian-American) Social class/occupation (e.g., trucker, professor, lawyer) Education (e.g., high school diploma, college degree) Family members (e.g., parents, siblings) Mean SD

2.75 1.13

3.58 3.69 3.75 3.77

.73 .93 .85 .93

Friends (e.g., peer group) *Very Influential Native language (e.g., if your native language is Spanish and you live in the US) Region of the country (e.g., south, west) Situation/context (e.g., at a party, interviewing for a job)

3.77

.97

4.25 4.26 4.26

.94 .87 .68

RESULTS On Part I, the majority of the respondents do not know if they speak with a dialect (mean = 2.99) or if they want to improve the way they speak (mean = 2.88). They strongly disagreed that they are embarrassed by the way they speak (mean = 1.46) and that the way they speak may hurt their chances of getting the type of job that they want (mean = 1.67). They disagreed that they stereotype people according to how they speak (mean = 2.61). On the other hand, the majority of the respondents agree that: dialect can hurt one’s chances of getting a job (mean = 3.40); they like different dialects (mean = 3.85); and they think that some dialects sound “more educated” (mean = 3.87) and “more professional” (mean = 3.85) than others. Further, respondents agree that they like the way they speak (mean = 3.94) and think that they speak “good English” (mean = 4.04). In addition, they strongly agreed that they speak differently according to the situation; for example, they speak more formally in an interview or when presenting a speech in class (mean = 4.25). On Part II, respondents perceived that gender is somewhat influential regarding the way that a person speaks (mean = 2.75). However, they perceived the following variables to be influential regarding the way a person speaks: race/ethnicity (mean = 3.58); social class/occupation (mean = 3.69); education (mean = 3.75); family members (mean = 3.77); friends (mean = 3.77). Also, they perceived the following variables to be very influential regarding the way that a person speaks: native language (mean = 4.25); region of the country (mean = 4.26); and situation/context (mean = 4.26).

CONCLUSION Respondents do not know whether or not they speak with dialects or if they want to improve the way they speak since they like it and are not embarrassed by it. Although they think that some dialects sound more educated and more professional than others and that dialect can hurt one’s chances of getting a job, they do not perceive that the way they speak will hurt their chances of getting a job. Further, they are aware that race/ethnicity, region of the country, social class/occupation, education, situation/context, family members, friends, and native language influence dialect or the way a person speaks. However, they perceived gender to be somewhat influential.


				
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