Volume 4, Issue 1
  • ISSN 0169-7420
  • E-ISSN: 2213-4883
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The concept of 'attitude' is adopted from social psychology. Sociolinguis-tics can be criticized for having 'borrowed' this term without taking into consideration its theoretical background and implications. No serious attempts have been made to develop a theory of language attitudes. This means that(1) we do not know the mental processes which underlie the formation of language attitudes;(2) we have to ask ourselves wether the methods used in sociolinguistic research really measure language attitudes and(3) wether the interpretations of the results are correct;(4) we do not know much on the societal conditions which influence the formation of language attitudes, in other words the development and function of language attitudes within a speech community are unclear.Whereas with regard to the last question we have to consult the 'sociology of knowledge', the first three questions, which are discussed in this paper, need the help of social psychology.'Language attitude' is defined as a 'learned predisposition of the language user to respond consistently favourably or unfavourably with regard to a language (variety, form)1. Most social psychologists regard 'attitude' as consisting of two components, a cognitive one and an evaluative of affec-tive one. If the attitude object is some linguistic form the language user can relate it to (a) the linguistic variety that it belongs to; (b) the geographical area in which it is spoken; (c) the social class by which it is spoken. These are his 'beliefs' on language. With these beliefs can be associated other beliefs about the geographical area or social class in question. The sum of all these beliefs forms the cognitive component of the person's language attitude. All these attributes are related to emotional values. All these values together form the evaluational or affective com-ponent of the language attitude. In order to investigate language atti-tudes we have to account for both components. Measuring only the evalua-tional component does not provide us with any insights into underlying belief structure, from beliefs only we cannot infer a person's attitude.Though many social psychologists describe a third conative component to attitude, which is related to behaviour, the relation between attitude and behaviour has long been an unsolved problem because of the apparent discrepancy between them. Two models by which it is possible to explain this relation are discussed here: that of FISHBEIN & AJZEN 1975 and that of ROKEACH 1972. Fishbein & Ajzen regard (intentions to) behaviour as a function of a persona attitude toward the consequences of the behaviour and his subjective norm (SN) consisting of "the preceived expectations of specific referent individuals or groups'* and the motivation to comply.What can be criticized in this model is that (a) the attitude toward the consequences of the behaviour is dependent on SN and (b) that such defi-nition of 'attitude' hardly allows generalization and is of little expla-natory power.Rokeach sees behaviour as a function of attitude toward an object and attitude toward the situation in which the object is placed. Our modified version of this model implies that a language user has (1) an attitude toward a language (variety, form) such as described earlier and (2) an attitude toward a speech situation, i.e. he knows the norms by which it is dominated (normative beliefs) and he relates, once more, emotional values to these norms and other 'attributes' they are associated with. Normative beliefs and their evaluation are highly dependent on what he knows and feels about language and its regional and social identity. If his atti-tude deviates from the generally accepted norm he will usually adapt to the norm if it is related to heavy sanctions; if it is not, he will behave according to his attitude.The implications of these social psychological theories for sociolinguis-tics are discussed. The most important points are:(1) Sociolinguistic research on "language attitudes" often deals with normative beliefs instead;(2) Other types of language attitude researchs are better called "opinion poll";(3)The use of standardized belief items (a) imposes stereotypes on the subjects, (b) cannot prove that people really hold these beliefs on language.(4) We still do not know which linguistic features evoke which reactions and why they do;(5) The lack of insight in the problem of attitude theory easily causes misinterpretations of sociolinguistix findings.Therefore, our suggestion is to work out a theoretical framework based on social psychology and sociology of knowledge, to reinterpret sociolinguis-tic findings and finally, to formulate new sociolinguistic research which could be more fundamental than it is now.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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