Keeping it real or selling out - the effect of accent modification on personal identity

Activity: Participating in or organising event(s)Participating in a conference, workshop, exhibition, performance, inquiry, course etc


Accent and identity

Since 2014, I have been investigating the link between one's accent and personal identity, and how accent is changed, willingly or not, in order to create identities considered more 'professional'. Herein lies a key issue: what if accent modification is something we are told to do and/or feel we have no real choice in? What if we modify our language use to meet someone else's criteria for 'linguistic professionalism'?

I have conducted four studies on this subject, notably within the context of Education, and the results show that for some, accent modification leads to issues of linguistic selling out, what I refer to as 'linguistic homelessness', precisely because we are changing our language based on the desires of those in power, but not because we wish to. Thus, sometimes our language is not really ours to begin with.

I give talks to local schools on this subject, as well as public talks, in order to better understand the relationship between our accent and how it makes us who we are. Most recently, my book with Bloomsbury (2018) discusses two (hopefully) new topics within accent and identity:

1. While there is no 'real me' according to sociolinguistic research, I argue that there are in fact real mes. That is, there are multiple identities that can be established, partly at least by accent modification, and all can be understood as 'true'.

2. I discuss what the phonological implications are for accents deemed as 'broad', 'general' or 'posh'. While most people know such varieties when they hear them, we don't really have a more thorough phonological understanding of this.

Keeping it real or selling out - the effect of accent modification on personal identity

Event duration20 Jun 2016 → …
Degree of recognitionNational event

Event: Other