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Implicit and Explicit Language Attitudes and Accent Discrimination in England

Mapping language attitude change

This large-scale project is conducted by two academics at Northumbria University: Dr Robert McKenzie, Department of Humanities and Dr Andrew McNeill, Department of Psychology. To contact us please email

The project is funded by a 12-month British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship awarded to Dr Robert McKenzie (Reference: MD20\200009) (£137,078.50)

Project Overview

People form judgements about others from the way they speak. Thus, language-based biases have profound social consequences for speakers of negatively-evaluated accents, including restricting educational and employment opportunities. However, linguists have traditionally investigated individuals' explicit (conscious) language attitudes, ignoring more deeply-embedded, and enduring, implicit (unconscious) attitudes towards language variation.

This study employs implicit and self-report instruments, adapted from social psychology, to measure 300 English nationals’ implicit and explicit attitudes towards Northern English and Southern English speech. Analysis will uncover any differences between participants’ implicit and explicit language attitudes, evidence of which will indicate the direction of any language attitude change in progress, and identify social groups who may be leading attitude change. The findings will thus determine the current status, and ascertain any changing levels of linguistic discrimination, regarding Northern and Southern English speech in England and help raise public awareness of the prevalence, and negative effects, of language-based prejudice.

Publications associated with the Project:

McKenzie, R.M. and A. McNeill (under contract) Implicit and Explicit Language Attitudes: Mapping accent discrimination and attitude change in England. London: Routledge

McKenzie, R.M. and E. Carrie (2018) Implicit-explicit attitudinal discrepancyand the investigation of language attitude change in progress. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 39(9): 830-844. 

McKenzie, R.M. (2015) UK university students’ folk perceptions of spokenvariation in English: The role of explicit and implicit attitudes. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 236: 31-53. 

Please also see the Northern English Project website at Northumbria University


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