Professor Dagmar Deuber, Chair of Variation Linguistics, the Department of English, University of Muenster, Germany, visited the Centre for English Language Studies, University of Hyderabad from 3 to 7 March 2019. She gave lectures and also interacted with the research scholars of the Centre.
Prof. Deuber spoke on “Attitude Studies in World Englishes Research” and “Teacher’s Attitudes towards Accents of English: A Trinidadian Case Study and its Implications for Models of World Englishes”. The first talk focused on language attitudes that include emotions and beliefs about language varieties and language behaviours. She talked about contexts where English is spoken as a second language, such as India, Nigeria, Kenya, Malta within world Englishes. Further expanding on this, she explained that when we talk about the varieties where English is spoken as a second language, attitude plays a major role. She indicated that anything can become a norm if people accept that, citing the case of India as an example of a norm-developing country. Attitude plays an important role in deciding where we place these varieties. Explaining norm and standard she said that standard is the prescriptive form and norm is the descriptive form. There is an increasing use of local forms of English for creative writing. She underlined the fact that respondents in India preferred British English over Indian English or American English which clearly points to the role of attitude. In conclusion she pointed out that attitude studies in Indian Englishes have not been sufficiently explored and this area holds potential for further research.
The talk was followed by a Q & A session.
The second talk on the topic “Teacher’s Attitudes towards Accents of English: A Trinidadian Case Study and its Implications for Models of World Englishes” was about attitude an study conducted in a school context in Trinidad. During the 19th century there was a gradual shift of the official language from French Creole to English Creole. As Prof. Deuber talked about Trinidad, she brought out the fact that there has been a positive shift these days in the attitude of Trinidadians towards the Creole used in Trinidad as opposed to the earlier studies. People no longer consider it less prestigious than English which probably indicates a changing norm. The people acknowledge the functional difference between the two varieties; English is mostly used for formal communication and the Creole mostly in informal contexts. Highlighting the importance of context, she said that in choral singing people preferred standard British English to Trinidadian Standard English.
The conclusion she presented was that context of language use is expanding as there is more scope for contact with different varieties of English. This aspect in turn will bring in more norms that are relevant to people in different contexts.
The talk was followed by a discussion during which Prof. Deuber pointed out that one cannot define a variety by a set of exclusive criteria; therefore, a speaker need not necessarily have all the defined features to be considered to be a speaker of the standard variety.
-By Srirupa Poddar, PhD scholar, CELS