PLURIPRESTIGE AND PHONOIDEOLOGY
DID I SAY THAT GOOD AND WHO CARES ANYHOW?
Emeritus Professor of Applied Language Studies
The University of Queensland
Written languages in countries with developed educational and cultural systems routinely have clearly defined instruments of prestige: a language academy like the Académie Française (founded in 1635), dictionaries, grammars, and social, media and educational means of propagating them. Such norms succeed through the prestige value: they are associated with people and classes who have power, influence and social attractiveness.
But some languages are pluricentric: like English, there are multiple focal points which provide different prestige models. That leads to pluriprestige.
The spoken forms of these prestige variants of language, however, are less defined, less stable, and more complex. To be sure, there are usually one or more norms of pronunciation (orthoepy). But prestige norms of pronunciation change over time. They are subject to a wide range of social, functional and contingent factors. And the prestige norms can change their role in relation to the power and prestige structures of the societies where they operate. Speakers have to work out what model or models they practice and will respect. That is their phonoideology.
In this paper I discuss the changing nature and prestige value of a number of variants of English, from RP ("Received Pronunciation") in the UK and General American to the standing of different variants of English in Australia. Political Correctness, and its effect of targeting discrimination, has been part of a major trend against prejudice against non-"standard" language varieties.
I then place English in an international, globalized and more specifically Asian, context. What are the properties of prestige of a lingua franca with established and valorized local variants? Are they related to a concept of "core" English, as suggested by Jenkins (2000)? How do these prestige variants relate to language prestige in countries with English as a mother tongue?
This discussion shows that prestige is not a static, or even relatively static, set of properties defining a norm in the way it once did. Nowadays language prestige involves rather a large, unstable set of factors which relate not only to power factors, but also to the dynamics of interpersonal communication. Learning to manipulate prestige and its variants in a way which is sensitive to changing communicative requirements is therefore a key task for learners not only of English as a Second Language, but also for speakers of Mother Tongue English.
Other contributions will be from, but not limited to, the following areas: