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World Englishes: National Standards & Attitudes Towards non-Standard Forms of English in South Africa and Australia

This paper aims to give a modest contribution to the ‘World Englishes’ debate, focussing on the issue of national standard in South Africa and Australia and non-standard varieties of English, respectively, Black South African English (BSAE) – i.e. the variety of English spoken by native speakers of South African indigenous languages – and Aboriginal English (AbE) – i.e. the variety of English spoken by Australian Aboriginal people. Two field studies have been conducted, in both countries, in order to collect empirical data on: what is the most widely used English standard in the two nations; the informants’ opinion on Australian and South African English international intelligibility; lastly, and more importantly, what are the English native speakers’ attitudes towards, respectively, BSAE in South Africa and AbE in Australia, in order to shed light on the social and power structures of both countries. The study of attitudes in these two countries carries with it important extra-linguistic issues which will be later described in Part 2, 3 and 4 of the present work.
The latter will be divided in four separate parts, plus a final section with a comparative conclusion of the main findings. Part 1 is intended to offer a broad historical overview of how English has reached, through its historical expansion, its present-day status of most widespread language on Earth as well as a summary of the present-day ‘World Englishes’ debate, presenting the theories of the most important scholars on the subject. Part 3 and 4 will focus, respectively, on South Africa and Australia, and will be organized with a similar structure. An introductory part will describe the language and society of both countries, as well as giving a short history of how English was established there and the different roles it plays at present. After that, the field studies will be presented and discussed in the respective sections, analysing the data collected through questionnaires, in order to shed light on the participants’ opinions about the English standard and on BSAE and AbE. The reasons which led to the choice of the countries for the analysis will be explained in much greater details, in conjunction with the necessary background theoretical information on the field studies, in Part 2. The latter functions as a general introduction to both the field studies.
The one study I have replicated and expanded in the present research is the one described in van der Walt, J. & van Rooy, B. (2002). ‘Towards a norm in SAfEs’ (see Bibliography). The authors handed out questionnaires to both black teachers and learners of English in order to assess the diffusion and acceptance of Black South African English.
The study was carried out in 2002, so my intention was to conduct a similar one, seven years afterward, but with a different set of participants. Van der Walt & van Rooy (2002) proved that BSAE is scoring increasing acceptance among black people and thus concluded that it will influence the creation of a SAfE standard, especially in account of the fact that white people make up to a little minority in South Africa. On the other hand, my research focuses precisely on this white minority, who still holds the upper hand in the economic sphere, in order to find out whether the spreading of BSAE in more fields of South African society – after the 1994 Democratic shift and the black leaders taking over the government – has led to its acceptance even among Standard English speakers from the non-black upper-middle class.
While I was working on this research on South Africa, I started thinking that it would have been interesting to conduct a similar study in Australia. In fact, the same disparities which can be seen between black and white people in South Africa are observable between white and Aboriginal people in Australia as well. Further, if BSAE is the most well social-marked dialect in South Africa, Aboriginal English (AbE) is Australia’s one, and I thought that a research on the white majority’s attitudes towards the latter was needed, also because I could not find a study which surveyed the mainstream white Australian community’s attitudes towards Aboriginal English. This issue is of great importance at present, as the Australian government has only in recent years recognised its past mistreatment of the Indigenous people and apologised for it. However, this is not enough as I firmly believe that true integration, both for Aboriginal people in Australia and for black people in South Africa, has to pass through the recognition of their linguistic code by the job market’s gatekeepers and through the end of social stigmatisation based on linguistic grounds. A discussion on both South Africa’s and Australia’s present-day situation as well as greater details on the reasons which led to the choice of these two countries as case studies will follow in the general introduction to the field studies, in Part 2 of the present work.

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3 General introduction This paper aims to give a modest contribution to the „World Englishes‟ debate, focussing on the issue of national standard in South Africa and Australia and non-standard varieties of English, respectively, Black South African English (BSAE) – i.e. the variety of English spoken by native speakers of South African indigenous languages – and Aboriginal English (AbE) – i.e. the variety of English spoken by Australian Aboriginal people. Two field studies have been conducted, in both countries, in order to collect empirical data on: what is the most widely used English standard in the two nations; the informants‟ opinion on Australian and South African English international intelligibility; lastly, and more importantly, what are the English native speakers‟ attitudes towards, respectively, BSAE in South Africa and AbE in Australia, in order to shed light on the social and power structures of both countries. The study of attitudes in these two countries carries with it important extra-linguistic issues which will be later described in Part 2, 3 and 4 of the present work. The latter will be divided in four separate parts, plus a final section with a comparative conclusion of the main findings. Part 1 is intended to offer a broad historical overview of how English has reached, through its historical expansion, its present-day status of most widespread language on Earth as well as a summary of the present-day „World Englishes‟ debate, presenting the theories of the most important scholars on the subject. Part 3 and 4 will focus, respectively, on South Africa and Australia, and will be organized with a similar structure. An introductory part will describe the language and society of both countries, as well as giving a short history of how English was established there and the different roles it plays at present. After that, the field studies will be presented and discussed in the respective sections, analysing the data collected through questionnaires, in order to shed light on the participants‟ opinions about the English standard and on BSAE and AbE. The reasons which led to the choice of the countries for the analysis will be explained in much greater details, in conjunction with the necessary background theoretical information on the field studies, in Part 2. The latter functions as a general introduction to both the field studies. The reasons for my interest in South Africa and Australia are to be found in the year I spent abroad, from July 2008 to July 2009, as a post-graduate exchange student in Sydney. During my stay in Australia I took a month-long trip to South Africa in December 2008. In South Africa I discovered a very complex and stratified society, where racial division, though not official anymore, is still evident in both cities and schools. The different ethnic groups, even in the post-Apartheid era, seem to conduct parallel existences, with African people still relegated in rural or industrial areas whereas the white population reside in the green residential ones. Even though, in recent years, the black upper-middle class has started moving in these areas, so far there is no parallel

Laurea liv.II (specialistica)

Facoltà: Lingue e Letterature Straniere Moderne

Autore: Alessandro Drenaggi Contatta »

Composta da 119 pagine.

 

Questa tesi ha raggiunto 1700 click dal 29/12/2010.

 

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