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Attitudes to Standard British English and Standard Polish

A Study in Normative Linguistics and Comparative Sociolinguistics


Maciej Rataj

The book provides a new insight into English-Polish comparative sociolinguistics by comparing and contrasting the attitudes of young adult native speakers of British English and Polish towards the standard varieties of their mother tongues. The author reviews the Anglophone and Polish approaches to standard dialects and language standardization, integrating sociolinguistics, normative linguistics and prescriptivism. The core of the work presents and analyses the results of a questionnaire-based study of language attitudes conducted at several Polish and British universities. In conclusion, the author places the two groups of informants on a spectrum of language attitudes ranging from purism to tolerance of non-standard varieties.
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Chapter 1 Standard English and Standard Polish


In the first half of the twenty-first century standard dialects are ubiquitous in the everyday life of all societies except those inhabiting the few remaining areas still untouched by modern civilization. Currently in a great number of countries the standard dialect is the language of national and local authorities, the mass media and education at all of its levels (both as the medium of instruction and as the subject of first-, second- and foreign-language teaching). Moreover, in numerous societies the standard variety is also the native dialect of certain social groups: the wealthiest, the most educated or simply the inhabitants of a capital city. Given the omnipresence of standard dialects, they are – to a certain extent – elusive and transparent: it may be said that many people take them for granted. Thus a textbook of Czech as a foreign language will not be entitled Standard Czech as the author naturally assumes that the addressee of the book is not keen on learning any dialect of the language other than the standard one. The same is true of dictionaries, grammar books and descriptive works, which, when attempting to describe a language as a whole, in fact focus on the standard dialect or omit non-standard dialects altogether (see Robins 1971: 47). Popular attitudes of non-linguists also reflect the transparency of the standard dialect: if a foreigner speaks a particular language with a standard accent, they may be complimented on speaking “without an accent” (see the discussion of RP below).

Standard dialects...

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