Volume 43, Issue 2
  • ISSN 0172-8865
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9730
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Do accent biases observed half a century ago (Giles 1970) and 15 years ago (Coupland and Bishop 2007) still hold in Britain today? We provide an updated picture of national attitudes to accent labels by replicating and extending previous studies. Mean ratings and relative rankings of 38 accents for prestige and pleasantness by a large representative sample of the British population ( = 821) attest to a remarkably stable, long-standing hierarchy of accent status. We find little evidence of demotion of conservative prestige varieties or reranking of accents, although we do observe a slight improvement in lower rankings. We focus in detail on age and life stage, finding that most of the age patterns observed in earlier studies were in fact instances of age-grading (lifespan effects), not real-time change in attitude. The midlife phase of life corresponds to conservative shifts in the perception of global, migrant-heritage, and stigmatised varieties. Our findings add change in speech evaluation to the growing body of research on lifespan change in speech production. Finally, although effects of ethnicity, social class, regional self- and other-bias, and age remain firmly in place, earlier gender differences in respondent behaviour have more or less disappeared.


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