Language attitudes in Denmark – University of Copenhagen

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Language attitudes in Denmark

We all have attitudes towards language. They can be related to issues like which language to speak in certain situations (e.g. local dialect or Copenhagen Standard), how we judge each other based on speaker dialect, which languages that are beautiful or ugly, or they can be attitudes towards specific linguistic features (e.g. the pronunciation of /s/ or the use of a specific word or grammatical form).

In the language attitudes studies we investigate attitudes to language in Denmark. We study attitudes from different perspectives and we use different methods. First of all we focus on attitudes towards Copenhagen speech and local dialect in the five research sites that are central to the LANCHART project: Vinderup, Odder, Vissenbjerg, Næstved and Copenhagen. We often work experimentally, but we also use methods like discourse analysis.

Important results so far include:

  • Local speech is downgraded in all places, also by young people who themselves speak the local dialect
  • Copenhagen speech is upgraded in all places
  • Specific features (such as fronted /s/) can result in very different attitudes depending on the linguistic context in which they occur
  • Intonation is an important feature for the recognition of regional ways of speaking and apparently matters more than the occurrence of single features

Language attitudes are important to processes of linguistic change because people change their language according to which social meaning is attached to their speech, and how it is evaluated in different contexts. This is why the area of language attitudes is an important area to study at the LANCHART centre. 

Read more about the project
About attitudes towards dialects, standard etc:
Kristiansen, Tore: (2009) The macro-level social meanings of late-modern Danish accents. Acta Linguistica Hafniensia 41: 167-192.

Kristiansen, Tore: Åbne og skjulte holdninger til engelskindflydelsen : - hvad kan sprogpolitikken påvirke? Språk i Norden: 95-112.

Kristiansen, Tore (2013): Language attitudes in the Nordic countries. Howard Giles & Bernadette Watson (eds.): The Social Meanings of Language, Dialect and Accent: International Perspectives on Speech Styles. New York: Peter Lang. 64–83.

Maegaard, Marie (2009): Den kvalitative sprogholdningsmetode: Mellem ideologi og praksis. Asgerd Gudiksen, Henrik Hovmark, Jann Scheuer, Pia Quist & Iben Sletten (eds.): Dialektforskning i 100 år. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum. 171-196.

Møller, Janus Spindler (2009): Stereotyping categorisations of speech styles among linguistic minority Danes in Køge. Marie Maegaard, Frans Gregersen, Pia Quist &J. Normann Jørgensen (eds.): Language attitudes, standardization and language change. Oslo: Novus. 231-254.

About attitudes towards seperate features:
Pharao, Nicolai, Marie Maegaard, Janus Spindler Møller & Tore Kristiansen (2014): Indexical meanings of [s+] among Copenhagen youth : Social perception of a phonetic variant in different prosodic contexts. Language in Society 43/1: 1-31.

Kristiansen, Tore, Nicolai Pharao & Marie Maegaard (2013): Controlled manipulation of intonational difference : An experimental study of intonation patterns as the basis for language-ideological constructs of geographical provenance and linguistic standardness in young Danes. Tore Kristiansen & Stefan Grondelaers (eds.): Language (De)standardisation in Late Modern Europe: Experimental Studies. Oslo : Novus. 355–374.