The role of celebrity in attitudes to the English of native and non-native speakers. A case study of female Italian ELF users


The nativeness principle is a major factor in attitudes to the use of ELF (see: Seidlhofer 2001, 2011; Jenkins 2007). Aside from issues of identity and the maintenance of an increasingly unjustifiable disparity in status between NES and NNES users of English, the emulation required by the nativeness principle is difficult to justify in the face of the fact that no single NS model of English exists (Seidlhofer 2011) and that research shows that NNES users are, in any case, unreliable at identifying NESs (Christiansen 2014), thus casting doubt over whether such models are as important in practice as conventional wisdom maintains. In this paper, we report on an experiment broadly following the matched-guise test technique (Lambert et al. 1960). In this, we collected NNES ELF users’ reactions, in the form of a Likert Scale, to recordings of various speakers, some of whom NES from the inner circle, others highly proficient ELF users from the outer circle (see Graddol 2010). Respondents were presented the same set of six speakers under different randomised guises according to the two parameters of ±NES (Native English Speaker) and ±Celeb (Celebrity), the latter chosen as a feature particularly relevant in the context of models and the motivation for emulation. Respondents, female Italian ELF users, were asked to rate how happy they would be to speak like the persona (whether genuine or invented) in question. The object was to see whether any discernable pattern could be identified in the way that the features of ±NES and ±Celeb interact to affect attitudes to different manifestations of English, and whether a “celebrity effect”, in particular in respect to NNES, can be shown to exist as a possible rival to the nativeness principle. In discussion of our results, we identify a possible third parameter namely affinity between respondent and speaker.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v28p7

Keywords: non-standard NES; nativeness principle; attitudes to ELF; celebrity effect


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