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Accent as an attitudinal object: Turkish prospective English language teachers’ perceptions and evaluations of different varieties of English

Öztürk, Ceren Yağmur
The present study investigates how Turkish prospective teachers of English perceive phonological variation and evaluate the speakers of different accents of English based on the following characteristics: politeness, education level, language proficiency, wealth, intelligibility, native speaker status, and attractiveness. By examining the topic through a lens intersecting sociolinguistics and social psychology of language, this thesis introduces a new context to the existing language attitude literature, by being the first language attitude study within Turkey to utilize the Verbal Guise Technique (VGT), which is a derivation of Matched Guise Technique (MGT). Additionally, the present study contributes a new statistical perspective for the analysis of the data to the existing language attitude literature. A total of 109 prospective English language teachers took part in two different studies. The data were collected at Middle East Technical University, Northern Cyprus and Ankara Campuses. In the first study, the data were analyzed quantitatively, whereas in the second study qualitatively. The results show that the participants evaluated the speakers with foreign accents of English rather negatively while holding a strong preference towards speaking with the Model American English (MAE) accent. Findings also demonstrate that while MAE is being evaluated high for the dimension of status, MBE is being evaluated high for solidarity. Previous exposure to various linguistics courses often resulted in the international accents being perceived negatively, rather than positively. Participants were prejudiced against the Turkish accented variety of English, giving it very negative descriptions. Relatedly, subjects reported that they would pay attention to their students’ accent in the classroom environment while perceiving native-like pronunciation as a characteristic of advanced and competent speakers of English. The present study provides evidence of negative bias that is held amongst Turkish prospective teachers of English towards the speakers of international accents of English. Results and implications are further discussed.