Center for the Study of Language and Society

Attitudes towards Non-Native Accents of English in Spanish Politics

Wednesday, 2019/05/08, 16:15


The Forum Language and Society is a series of guest lectures on sociolinguistic topics. Doctoral students of the GSH are credited with 0.25 ECTS per guest lecture attendance. CSLS MA students are credited with 1 ECTS after visiting 6 guest lectures.

Event organizer: Forum Language and Society
Speaker: Juan Antonio Cutillas Espinosa (Universidad de Murcia)
Date: 2019/05/08
Time: 16:15 - 17:45
Locality: 214
Hauptgebäude
Hochschulstrasse 4
3012 Bern
Characteristics: open to the public
free of charge

Over the past two decades, much has been discussed about the role of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) for international communication. Little attention has been paid, though, to its implications for political discourse in public. More specifically, how local attitudes -the overhearer effectusing Bell’s (1984) influential audience design framework- may be expressed as scorn or embarrassment. This process of delegitimization of public ELF use can be triggered by what is perceived as an inadequate (i.e. non-native speaker) use of English. More generally, not speaking English has become a matter of overt political criticism in the Spanish media and the Spanish public alike. In our paper, we intend to present instances of this role of English as a source of political legitimacy, synonymous to political competence. We will also present instances of ELF being the source of political trouble for Spanish politicians. We will compare the attitudes towards the English spoken by Ana Botella, former mayor of Madrid and that spoken by Esperanza Aguirre, former president of the Madrid regional government. This comparison will reveal the interplay among the native/non native divide, intelligibility, local attitudes towards the national standard and their transfer to the ELF arena. The relevant theoretical implication is that, at least in public discourse, ELF use is mediated by the attitudes of a local community, which is otherwise absent from the communication process itself. On a more general level, we will try to show how ELF presents sociolinguistic patterns which are similar to those of language varieties rooted in a native speech community.