What can explain newly developing (implicit) language attitudes in predominantly bilingual areas? A case study of the Coloured communities in Cape Town by means of Implicit Association Test (IAT)

Thematic Section: The development of social meaning in heterogeneous speech communities

social meaning, contact-induced variation and change, developmental sociolinguistics, language policy, language ideology

Pedro Álvarez Mosquera, University of Salamanca
Since 1994, South Africa has undergone a period of social transformation that has redefined its sociolinguistic spectrum as well as the development of intergroup (interethnic) relations. English being the most relevant lingua franca across the nation, this presentation investigates the implicit language attitudes of young Coloured individuals towards English accents that have developed in this situation, specifically in the context of Cape Town. The linguistic situation for this group seems to be in flux: their complex social space led to a predominance of Afrikaans as their L1, but recent research shows that a language shift towards English appears to be taking place. There is a continuum of language practices ranging between both languages (McCormick 2002) and a potential ongoing transition towards English among the youth. We use the Implicit Association Test (Greenwald et al. 1998) to investigate how these recent linguistic developments in South-African Coloured communities is reflected in their linguistic attitudes. We measure how Standard South African English (SSAE) and Afrikaans-accented English (AE) are cognitively processed by 84 young Coloured English and Afrikaans speaking participants. In addition to showing that the accents’ indexicality on its own can trigger significant implicit positive bias towards SSAE speakers, this study delves deeper into the social factors that play a role in the configuration of this language bias. More specifically, by means of a post-IAT sociolinguistic survey on participants’ linguistic background, language exposure and intergroup social distance levels (among other social factors), our statistical analysis revealed that more positive attitudes towards SSAE are significantly correlated with the dominant languages spoken in their places of origin and the social distance levels with the white group. Finally, important methodological and sociolinguistic implications will be debated with specific attention for language policy.