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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 7 Prestige in English and Polish


The success of any linguistic variety depends on the willingness on the part of its linguistic community to use it. Prestige is a derivative of this; however, it seems that it does not always work as expected. For instance, those who use a sociolect such as slang do so for the purposes of group identity rather than considering their slang as beautiful or more correct than other varieties. A standard dialect is a special case in that, to the majority of speakers in numerous national speech communities, it is a non-native dialect which all speakers are nonetheless expected to understand and use on a daily basis. Thus prestige is necessary for a standard dialect candidate to win the selection stage of language standardization, and subsequently to resist destandardization or replacement by another dialect. In Chapter 1 overt and covert prestige were distinguished, notions which account not only for clear-cut diglossia, where two different languages are employed, as in Paraguay, for example (Matthews 2007:105), but also for the use of the standard variety in official contexts and employing a regional or social vernacular, one not necessarily markedly different from the standard one, when the situation does not require this. By realizing that different contexts require different varieties as well as styles, one is able to account for the fact that slang and vernacular varieties, although popular, cannot substitute for standard ones.

The present chapter is not the only one concerned with prestige, as language reputation permeates such issues...

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