Discrimination against people who speak English with a nonstandard accent or nonstandard grammar is called “linguistic prejudice.” Despite sounding relatively benign, it has a severe impact on people throughout their lives, starting in kindergarten and reaching into searches for housing or employment and interactions with the justice system.
Cinematic stereotypes reflect and shape common prejudices. Perceptions can be influenced by portrayals of Asians as nerdy, black men as dangerous and Latinas as fiery. So, how does Hollywood portray various groups?
Exploring the Impact of Age, Race, and Stereotypes on Perceptions of Language Performance and Patronizing Speech.
Academic Article: Atkinson, Jaye L., and Robin G. Sloan. “Exploring the Impact of Age, Race, and Stereotypes on Perceptions of Language Performance and Patronizing Speech.” Journal of Language & Social Psychology, vol. 36, no. 3, June 2017, pp. 287–305.
Two experiments tested whether age and racial stereotypes influence communication. Specifically, both studies sought to understand if older African American targets would experience a communicative double jeopardy. In the first experiment, participants assessed targets’ language performance and beliefs about their own speech style (i.e., patronizing speech style). Age (participant and target) interacted with stereotype to influence ratings of language competence, and an interaction of target race, stereotype, and participant age influenced the elicitation of patronizing speech. In the second experiment, participants assessed communication competence and patronizing speech. Age groups of the targets and the participants, rather than racial groups, significantly influenced perceptions of both ratings of communication competence and the adoption of a patronizing speech style. Implications for the Age Stereotype in Interaction Model of intergenerational communication and future research on intersectionality are discussed.
“C’mon, Get Happy”: The Commodification of Linguistic Stereotypes in a Volkswagen Super Bowl Commercial.
Academic Article: Lopez Q, Hinrichs L. “C’mon, Get Happy”: The Commodification of Linguistic Stereotypes in a Volkswagen Super Bowl Commercial. Journal of English Linguistics [Internet]. 2017 Jun [cited 2019 Jan 20];45(2):130–56.
This article examines a national Volkswagen commercial broadcast on American television during the 2013 Super Bowl, and the intense public debate that met it. It shows a cheerful European American owner of a 2013 Volkswagen Beetle, who despite being from Minnesota speaks in a Jamaican Creole (JC) accent with features of Rastafarian speech. The focus of analysis is the linguistic performance of the JC as well as the linguistic reception by American and Jamaican audience members. The linguistic analysis reveals that the primary objective in how the character uses forms of JC is not linguistic authenticity, but simply to index Jamaican culture and identity through selective feature use. Our discourse analysis of the ad’s reception shows that linguistic ideologies, including ideas about what constitutes linguistic racism, vary widely among American viewers and are generally divided along racial lines. On the other hand, Jamaican viewers were found to have a more homogenous perspective. We conclude that the selection of non-local racialized stereotypes as the target of cross-racial stylization practices complicate, but do not eliminate, modern types of linguistic minstrelsy.