Saint Anselm College
Children's Social Perceptions and Attitudes Toward
Others: Sensitivity to Dialect Differences
of the social dialect literature has served as models for the investigation
of sociolinguistic awareness, specifically in terms of attitude and speech
identification. The purpose of the present study was to examine the
role standard and nonstandard speech serves with young children and to
determine in what ways children from diverse backgrounds might react to
dialect differences. The study consisted of 46, 8 and 9 year olds
from two diverse communities and utilized a self-devised attitude and preference
survey. Based on the results, children are sensitive to speech differences.
Findings also revealed children from diverse communities to differ in their
preference for the representative speakers of two dialects. Possible
applications of the findings of this study concern the applying what is
found about children's language awareness to educational settings.
for this study were drawn from different populations. The participants
of Sample A were 24 children with a mean age of 8.01. They were third
graders at a public elementary school that is located in Southern New Hampshire.
A public elementary school from Northeastern Massachusetts were asked to
be part of this research from which the participants of Sample B were chosen.
They were a group of 22 children in the third grade with a mean age of
7.92. The reason for selecting two samples from different communities
was an effort to measure the attitudes of two diverse groups. The
participants were exposed to two prerecorded speech samples: standard and
nonstandard English. A self-devised attitude survey and social preference
survey were then administered to the two groups to illicit the children's
attitudes and preferences toward the speakers of standard and nonstandard
2(gender) x 2(voice) mixed analysis of variance (ANOVA) were conducted
for the eight Attitude Questionnaire scales (i.e. intelligent, dumb, handsome,
ugly, friendly, mean, rich, and poor). In general, the children's
responses followed a clear pattern: the positive qualities (intelligent,
handsome, friendly, rich) were highly attributed to the standard English-speaking
Voice 1. In contrast, the negative qualities (dumb, ugly, mean, poor)
were highly attributed to nonstandard Voice 2.
A series of 2(school) x 2(preference)
Chi-squares were conducted for the five voice preference questions. The
results revealed children from Sample A, Goffstown, to prefer standard
English-speaking Voice 1. Children from Sample B, Haverhill, were
more likely to prefer nonstandard English-speaking Voice 2.
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