The literature surrounding children's language attitudes has blossomed in recent years, but little is known about modern children's attitudes toward ethnic varieties of English. In addition, little is known about what factors may influence these attitudes. Here I investigate the language attitudes of children in kindergarten through third grade. These children in South Central Idaho have considerable experience with Spanish-accented English (SPE), but very little real-world experience with African American English (AAE). White, Latinx, and biracial participants were asked to evaluate samples of Standard American English (SAE), AAE, and SPE in relation to each other on scales of both status and solidarity. The status measure used a ladder task modified for children, and the solidarity task used a friendship-preference task and asked which variety the participant thought sounded like them. On the status task, children were more likely to rank SAE than SPE as the highest, and were more likely to rank SPE than SAE as the lowest. Native speakers of English were more likely than English language learners (ELLs) to rank SPE as the highest pick. Moreover, the reasons participants gave for their choices on the status task were found to be more positive and less negative for SAE than for either AAE and SPE. For the solidarity tasks, it was found that SAE was more likely to be chosen than both SPE and AAE as the variety that sounded like the participant, and ELLs responded similarly to native speakers. For the friendship-preference task, participants were more likely to choose SAE than AAE. Participants' race and grade level were not statistically significant factors for either the status or solidarity tasks. These findings add to the knowledge of the current state of American children's language attitudes and suggest that modern children have definite attitudes and beliefs about the different varieties, even varieties with which they have little real-world exposure. Additionally, this research confirms previous results that children prefer native, standard speakers to foreign-accented speakers as potential friends.
College and Department
Humanities; Linguistics and English Language
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Johnson, Heather Jill, "Ducks in the Pond: Elementary-School-Age Children's Perceptions of Standard American English, African American English, and Spanish-Accented English on Scales of Status and Solidarity" (2022). Theses and Dissertations. 9520.
minority language, child language attitudes, accent attitudes, linguistic diversity