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Unequal English accents, covert accentism and EAL migrants in Australia

Sender Dovchin ORCID logo EMAIL logo and Stephanie Dryden ORCID logo

Abstract

Accentism refers to the ways that “unequal English accents” become re-allocated in particular English-speaking dominant contexts, creating different presumptions, ideologies and attitudes towards the English accent and pronunciation of English speakers. Using data derived from two larger ethnographic studies, this article aims to explore the ways that English as an Additional Language (EAL) migrants experience covert accentism – the social exclusion caused covertly when the dominant members of society misunderstand the accents of EAL users. Our study shows that EAL users express their worry of being stereotyped for their English accents, which interferes with their social and daily life. In particular, the participants noted forms of social exclusion such as a lack of interest in them or their experiences, and deficit perspectives surrounding their overall English practices including their accents. We conclude that such instances of covert accentism can lead to more serious implications, such as having difficulty fostering relationships with members of the dominant society, accent bullying, and psychological damage.


Corresponding author: Sender Dovchin, Curtin University, Perth, WA, Australia, E-mail:

Funding source: Australian Research Council

Award Identifier / Grant number: DE180100118

Funding source: Department of Home Affairs, Australia

Award Identifier / Grant number: 4-AXFMHKT

Acknowledgment

We would like to thank the Guest Editors of this Special Issue, Josep Solar and Sergi Morales Galvez for their support and feedback, and anonymous peer reviewers, who rigorously reviewed this paper.

  1. Research funding: This study was funded by Australian Research Council (DE180100118) and Department of Home Affairs, Australia (4-AXFMHKT).

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Received: 2021-07-18
Accepted: 2022-04-14
Published Online: 2022-08-31
Published in Print: 2022-09-27

© 2022 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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