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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 2 Research objectives


Sociolinguistic literature abounds in descriptions of standard dialects and their role in particular societies. However, statements concerning standard variety attitudes lack statistical support. Books such as those by Crystal (2006) and Milroy and Milroy (1998) present a priori claims illustrated with single examples of language-related views, for example linguistic complaint. The same is true of Markowski (2005) and his classification of attitudes to Polish. The latter book is especially significant since Markowski attempts to assign particular attitudes to social groups: for instance, he claims that linguistic tolerance may be noticed among the intelligentsia specializing in the humanities, while the laissez-faire attitude is more typical of intelligentsia specializing in technology and the youth. More importantly, he tells the reader that Polish linguistics lacks the evidence to show what language attitudes Poles really have, as is attested in the following quotations.

[I]t is difficult to say how the difference in attitudes is connected with linguistic self-awareness and the command of Standard Polish. It would be perhaps premature and not based on sound evidence to say that in certain communities a poorer command of cultured Polish [SP], connected with a natural tendency to accept the language of one’s speech community, is the cause of the laissez faire attitude to the language, while being ‘well-entrenched’ in cultured Polish is conducive to having linguistic tolerance of other speech communities. (Markowski 2005: 139)[I]t would be premature to assign certain attitudes to particular communities or social strata […] because research into language attitudes...

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