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Auteur: Alexei PRIKHODKINE

Attitudes, variation, and language detail: effects of specifying linguistic stimuli

Abstract/Résumé: In this presentation, I will explore to what extent the mode of presentation of linguistic stimuli (language detail) has an effect on the cognitive activities used by speakers when expressing their opinion on language. The starting point of my research was a discrepancy between results of attitude investigations conducted in the French-speaking part of Switzerland and production observations. While there is no evidence of complete convergence towards variants from France, language attitudes studies systematically revealed the standard located outside the Swiss community (in France) and the local variety stigmatized. I argue that this discrepancy is due to a large extent to the form of the stimuli used in these studies (general category names such as accent or variety). Results from my research on lexical variation in French spoken in Switzerland suggest that general category names tend to elicit highly stereotyped attitudes having for target only a part of lexical variants, that is the most stigmatized features – those coming from extinct endogenous languages (patois). At the same time, this research provides evidence of the existence of a large set of legitimized items (resulting from variation in French), which seem to define an emergent Swiss standard. These results indicate that the validity of language attitude data may be enhanced by taking into account social factors involved in the process of meaning organization of general stimuli and by according to linguistic features the same level of specificity in language regard and in production.