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Linguistics Vanguard

A Multimodal Journal for the Language Sciences

Editor-in-Chief: Bergs, Alexander / Cohn, Abigail C. / Good, Jeff

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An end of egalitarianism? Social evaluations of language difference in New Zealand

Marie-France Duhamel / Miriam Meyerhoff
Published Online: 2014-12-18 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/lingvan-2014-1005


New Zealand has traditionally prided itself on an ethos of casual egalitarianism – a value system with positive and negative implications. The well-known linguistic homogeneity of the islands and general lack of regional dialect differences (Trudgill, Peter. 2004. New-dialect formation: The inevitability of colonial Englishes. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press) is consistent with this ethos but also clearly reflects the cultural homogeneity of New Zealand’s more recent settlers. This assessment of linguistic homogeneity requires reappraisal now for two reasons: (1) many New Zealanders claim there are speech markers that identify where a New Zealander comes from, and (2) recent significant changes in the demographics of the country mean that new ethnic varieties are plausibly emerging. The very few pronunciation and lexical stereotypes that are associated with particular regions cannot explain all the claims we hear about (1), and as long-standing shibboleths, they say nothing about awareness of recent demographic changes. Our paper highlights how comments about ethnicity, social class, and rural/urbanness emerge as salient factors in aesthetic evaluations, and may point to specific features that merit detailed and linguistically informed analysis (Niedzielski, Nancy A. & Dennis R. Preston. 2000. Folk linguistics. Berlin and New York, NY: Mouton de Gruyter).

Keywords: New Zealand English; language attitudes; perceptual dialectology; folk linguistics; sociolinguistics

1 Introduction

This paper considers language attitudes in New Zealand, a field pioneered by Bayard (1990, 1991). However, unlike previous work which relied on modified matched guise tests (Lambert et al. 1960), it instead uses Preston’s (1999) methods to explore perceptions of dialect boundaries. These methods elicit a richer source of data on language attitudes and dialect differences, because they do not restrict folk responses to traits or categories imposed by the analyst.

This exercise is particularly timely in New Zealand: since the early studies of language attitudes, New Zealand has seen significant increases in immigration, both from other parts of the English-speaking world, and from Asia, especially India and China. In particular, this migration has affected the demographics of Auckland, where our study was conducted. Auckland is now classified as “super-diverse”, a term whose denotation varies (Vertovec 2007) but has been defined for Auckland as meaning more than 25% of the population are “ethnic migrants”. This definition is inherently hegemonic, since it presupposes that a certain place “belongs” to a particular group of people, moreover it erases through assimilation less visible migrants, e.g. White French or Americans coming to New Zealand over the decades. Nevertheless, it captures the relative increase in ethnic heterogeneity in New Zealand, especially Auckland, over the last two decades.

Despite a general ethos of egalitarianism (King 2003: 507) and high value placed on being “just an ordinary bloke” (the gendered nature of this stereotype is independently interesting), we suggest that our data indicate an underlying awareness of and willingness to orient to social class. Radical social change in favour of free market policies were rolled out in New Zealand from the mid-1980s; these changed society rapidly “in a fundamental fashion” (Palmer 2002; Richardson 1995). One result is that New Zealand ranks second in the OECD for its increase in income inequality between the mid-1980s and late-2000s,1 and incomes for the top decile of society have risen faster than the OECD average (Ministry of Social Development 2013; OECD 2012). These changes are discussed in the media, however, given the country’s tradition of seeing itself as offering a meritocratic, level playing field, New Zealanders may find themselves at a loss for how to talk about growing divergence and difference.

In this paper, we contend that New Zealanders’ perceptions about language afford a means of expressing a sense of growing social disparities and difference. Our data demonstrate how sociolinguistic fieldwork allows social scientists to focus more sharply on the ways New Zealanders are engaging with national social and demographic change. We explore how people’s dialect perceptions suggest that ethnicity, rural/urban status and personality traits like pleasantness are interwoven with and may stand proxy for comments about social class. In this way, linguistics asserts its relevance to broader social issues. Our research also contributes to linguistics: sociolinguistics has recently experienced advances in experimental methods used to elicit perceptions about the social indexicality of specific linguistic features and structures (e.g. Campbell-Kibler 2010). However, such work depends on researchers first determining what social or aesthetic features are the most salient in the speech community. Our study provides such a baseline, and as such is an essential prolegomenon for future studies of language attitudes in the context of New Zealand’s changing society.

2 Primus inter pares? Why language attitudes matter in New Zealand

Generally speaking, linguists are struck by the relative homogeneity of language in New Zealand. This may be attributed to the relatively shallow time depth of English-speaking settlement (King 2003: 171ff) and this may not be sufficient time to allow dialect differences to emerge (Bell and Kuiper 2000: 12). This cannot be the entire story, since other small islands settled by anglophones with a similar time depth did develop and maintain distinct regional dialects (Meyerhoff and Walker 2013); New Zealanders clearly have not placed a lot of value on emphasising difference through speech. The homogeneity may also be attributable to more basic principles associated with dialect levelling (Trudgill 2004) – given the soup of English dialects that mixed together, speakers’ automatic tendency to accommodate their speech to others’ may necessarily produce a levelled variety as its outcome.

New Zealanders are, of course, aware of small regional differences in vocabulary, but evidence of awareness of structural differences has been elusive, and as Bauer and Bauer (2002) note, lexical differences alone are a poor basis for positing dialect boundaries. Nonetheless, there is a pervasive lay belief that there are speech markers that identify where in New Zealand a speaker comes from. The exact linguistic correlates of these perceptions have not been easy to isolate. There are a few regional shibboleths – rhoticity among descendants of Scottish settlers in the far South and increasingly among urban youth in South Auckland (Harvey 2011). Some research reports emerging regional or ethnic pronunciation markers (Starks 2000; Bauer and Bauer 2002; Warren and Bauer, 2004) and ethnic discourse markers (Stubbe and Holmes 2000; Holmes et al. 2011), but it is not clear whether there is much or any orientation to these facts in the community at large.

This paper, therefore, has the following goals:

  • 1.

    To document the areas that New Zealanders spontaneously identify as associated with distinct speech varieties

  • 2.

    To provide a set of autochthonous labels expressing New Zealanders’ language attitudes to the different ways of speaking they identify and, by metonymic extension, to the speakers of those varieties

  • 3.

    To elicit information on specific linguistic features New Zealanders are paying attention to when categorising their fellows.

In the interests of economy, we will focus on the labels people apply to perceptions of regional varieties that we believe suggest a covert attention to social class.

Since its earliest settlement, New Zealand society has vaunted its more meritocratic social structure as a positive marker setting it apart from the class hierarchies of Britain (King 2003: 174–177). This valorisation of a flat social structure is the backdrop which, we suggest, makes people systematically draw on ethnic and aesthetic labels that stand proxy for social class. We choose to highlight the layering of rural/urbanness, ethnicity and aesthetic judgements that give substance to people’s evaluations of language. While it may not be clear which, if any variety, emerges as primus inter pares, it seems to us that some regional varieties are taking up a position ultimus inter pares, indicative of a gradual end of an ethos of egalitarianism.

3 Researching language perceptions in New Zealand

The heyday of research on language attitudes in New Zealand was the 1990s and early 2000s. Bayard (1990, 1991a, 2000) mainly relied on modified matched guise tests to probe the primary attitudes New Zealanders associated with their own (and other) accents of English. Bayard concluded that in addition to the familiar distinction between “power” and “solidarity” attributes that had emerged in matched guise work in the UK, New Zealanders also oriented to a third cluster of social characteristics that Bayard (1991b) labelled “charisma” – it comprised high positive ratings for ambition, leadership, self-confidence and reliability. These qualities are consistent with the meritocratic values mentioned earlier.

Later, Bayard and Bartlett (1996) concluded that “the stereotypes that NZE speakers attribute to regional variation are social in origin” (1996: 37), an observation that is central to our own analysis. Similarly, P. Gordon (1997) concluded that the 97 Otago University students she surveyed distinguished dialect areas on the basis of the region’s most salient social group(s) (1997: 36). She elicited two tropes for Auckland: “the young Polynesian ‘homey’ culture” and “the ‘well-spoken’ wealthy upper class” (1997: 18). Gordon concluded thatthe “predominant social differences emerging from [her] survey are rural/urban, class, and ethnic[ity]” (1997: 20). Our results from the other end of the country and nearly 20 years later corroborate this.

Huygens and Vaughan’s (1983) matched guide study was the first to identify an interaction between ethnicity and social class. They suggested that Maori speakers are “probably treated on non-ethnic terms, [and] are being evaluated as if [they are] Lower Status Pakehas” (1983: 221).2 E. Gordon (1997) also noted a strong correlation between girls’ use of broader New Zealand pronunciations and attributions of lower socioeconomic status and negative behavioural stereotypes (i.e. girls who were perceived to sound “lower class” were also perceived to be more likely to smoke and be promiscuous). These studies therefore indicate a priori associations between aesthetic and social class evaluations. Nielsen and Hay (2005) did not probe social class directly, but they found a positive correlation between ratings of “correctness” and “pleasantness” of the speech in different regions. If we take “correctness” in this survey to be a rough proxy for social class (correct speech being equated with more educated speech, higher levels of education being associated with higher socioeconomic status), then we have an emerging picture of a nationwide tendency to see class and aesthetics as interrelated over time.

Remarkably little research has engaged with NZ’s changing demographics over the last 20 years (Starks 2000; Starks and Reffell 2006; Starks 2008). Attention to Maori varieties of English is certainly important – Maori were the first settlers of NZ, and from the late nineteenth to the late twentieth century they comprised by far the single largest ethnic group other than British/Europeans. However, in the 2013 New Zealand Census it is clear that this is no longer the case. Maori still make up 15% of the national population, but Asians are now 12% and people from Pacific islands are 7% of the national population. Both groups are concentrated in Auckland (22% and 14% total Auckland pop.) but since the Maori and Pacific population have a significantly lower median age than other ethnic groups (c. 23 years compared to 35 years for Europeans and Asians), the social salience of these groups is only likely to increase in the future.

Because Auckland is home to nearly a third of all New Zealanders, and is more ethnically diverse than any other New Zealand city, we believe that it is the right place to explore in detail how New Zealanders express language and social class attitudes through aesthetic and cultural comments. We have chosen to do so using the medium of a “draw a map” task (Preston 1999; Long 1999; Montgomery 2006; Bucholtz et al. 2007, 2008).

4 Method

Respondents were given a largely unlabelled map of New Zealand with minimal instructions.3 The map included an enlarged section of the map showing Auckland in more detail. This was labelled minimally with widely-known terms for different parts of Auckland.

The data was collected by undergraduate students as an assessment option in a Linguistics and General Education course at the University of Auckland in 2011 and 2012.4 After the assessment had been marked, students were asked if any of them would like to pool their original maps so we could undertake an analysis of a larger sample. We received 247 maps in this way from the students. These maps contained 1,286 discrete labels or comments.

The lead author entered the boundaries drawn and the descriptive and evaluative labels associated with them into a MS Access database (see online appendices). This was done in the following way: Regional boundaries/labels were decided on the basis of where a respondent had placed a line on the map, or the town by which a region was labelled. In some cases, there was a discrepancy between these two pieces of information (e.g. a respondent put a circle around the Bay of Plenty, but labelled it Gisborne),5 and in these cases we entered the information into the database according to the label they had provided. Our rationale for this was that the label was a reliable indicator of the sociolinguistic information they wanted to convey and the mismatch between label and geographical marking was due to gaps in their knowledge of geography. If several regions were mentioned in a label, a separate entry was created for each in the database, thus. Wherever possible, an official regional subdivision was used from the government census bureau, but where respondents’ comments amalgamated different regions, we created a regional label for our database. For example, if a map circled an area roughly corresponding to both the administrative regions of Southland and Otago, we labelled this “Lower South Island”.

The descriptive and evaluative labels were based on the original comments provided on each map. We entered these faithfully into the database but they were then assigned a keyword(s) that we believed was an accurate summary of the qualities they were focused on, e.g. a longer comment or description might be reduced to “slang” if we felt that the main gist of the comment was about linguistic features that index an opposition to authority or vernacularism that are simultaneously concerned with establishing ingroup relationships for the users (Eble 1996).

Similarly, we would assign a longer comment the keyword “Pacific Islanders” in cases where the discussion commented on ethnicity directly or indirectly in relation to language, for example pacific feel to the language. Abbreviated, heavy use of slang. Dominantly pacific people, broken English(#149) and slang and rough as if they always have something in their mouth and mostly Maori and Pacific (Fob) pop (#152) (both about South Auckland) were given the keyword “Pacific Islanders” (inter alia).

The comments were thereby regrouped into four larger categories: comments on linguistic facts, comments on ethnicity/nationality, comments on pleasantness, and comments on socioeconomic status.6 In the results section, we will use these keyword-based categories to structure our analysis. Clearly, the raw data provides considerably more information that we have exploited in this short paper; this is probably true of most dialect surveys. Our analysis here does not preclude a subsequent analysis (by us or others) of the way responses cluster, cf. Evans (2011).

For several reasons, we deviated from our general stance of letting the respondents define the data and labelled seven regions in Auckland. First, it is clear that there is a readily identifiable variety emerging in South Auckland (comments in the media and entertainment attest to this) and we wanted to ensure that respondents were sufficiently focused on Auckland that they might give us information on their awareness of this. Second, as noted, Auckland has been the locus of most of NZ’s recent immigration, and some parts of the city are colloquially associated with certain ethnic groups (e.g. South Africans in parts of the North Shore, Somalis in Mount Roskill). Finally, in late 2010, central government forced a merger of several smaller cities in Auckland creating an administrative “super-city”. This has not been uncontroversial and it has highlighted local perceptions of cultural difference across the wider Auckland region. For all these reasons, it seemed timely to measure the degree to which Auckland residents are aware of local dialect differences.7

5 Results

First, we report on the main areas that were spontaneously identified in New Zealand as a whole. These are the kind of subjective measures of dialect difference that Preston suggested can complement the objective differences documented by linguists. We then provide an overview of the main traits and characteristics that were associated with the main dialect areas so identified. The data is extraordinarily rich but in the interests of economy, we will focus on comments that we believe orient in interesting ways directly and indirectly across New Zealand and within Auckland specifically to social class – a topic that is generally avoided in New Zealand popular discourse. This represents the attitudinal data which Preston suggested tells us a lot about the attitudes that people hold covertly or implicitly about speakers of different varieties.

There are three maps resulting from this analysis.8 Figure 1 shows the main dialect areas spontaneously identified. The percentage values indicate what percentage of the total corpus of maps isolated or labelled this area in any way at all.

Main dialect areas in New Zealand identified as having a distinctive speaking style out of a total of 247 respondents. (Major towns in a region noted in italics.)
Figure 1

Main dialect areas in New Zealand identified as having a distinctive speaking style out of a total of 247 respondents. (Major towns in a region noted in italics.)

Bauer and Bauer (2002) identified three main (lexical) dialect areas – a highly localised Southern region (SE of the South Island), a Northern region encompassing two thirds of the North Island, and a Central region taking in all remaining areas. The perceptual boundaries shown in Figure 1 aside from the identification of the southern part of the South Island as having a distinctive speech variety, do not line up with the lexical evidence for dialect boundaries. Our respondents’ perceptions of difference discriminate more than lexical dialect surveys are able to.

No one region seems to be particularly emblematic of the nation. Wellington, Christchurch, Northland, Southland and parts of Auckland were all labelled variously as (thick) Kiwi accent. In Southland, there is an intriguing hybrid: more of a Scottish/kiwi accent. The fact that the national label Kiwi applies liberally is consistent with the social and linguistic observations that differentiation has not been part of the overt enterprise in building New Zealand society. The phrase kiwi slang (our emphasis) is only used to describe speech in the Auckland and Northland region and this is the first indication that the evaluation of local speech styles are mediated by what people know about a region and what they believe about typical speakers there. In line with Niedzielski & Preston’s remark that “[non-linguists] believe that the use of proscribed forms by ethnolinguistic minorities is not natural and colloquial but an indication of ignorance and/or recalcitrance” (2000: 278) our maps include the comment below, which asserts a perceived artificiality of the way English is spoken by Northland Maori: The accent, particularly in younger people, is put on in a “gangster” thick manner. They put on an almost fake less educated accent and purposely use more simple basic English and colloquial language. They substitute many words with the Maori equivalent (#51).

6 Urban-rural as a perceptual axis

One striking feature of the boundaries in Figure 1 is the extent to which they seem to indicate that our respondents are sensitive to an urban-rural divide. The main perceived linguistic boundary between the North and South Islands appears to overlap with discriminations between rural and urban New Zealand. The main urban centers – Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch – are identified with distinct speech styles by 13-16% of our respondents. The mainly rural areas of Northland, Southland, the Eastern North Island were perceived as distinct linguistic regions most often, suggesting that a rural variety of New Zealand English is perceptually salient. Comments associated with the rural-urban axis suggest that rural speech is still considered emblematic of New Zealand as a whole, despite the shrinking population in rural regions (typical NZ accent, farmer accent; typical kiwi bloke; rural areas tend to have a more pronounced “NZ” accent than urban). Specifics of a rural variety are elusive, respondents struggle with comments about speakers being relaxed, lazy or they say stuff like “guzzlers” and “mate” a lot. These labels beg more questions: the nature of a typical Kiwi bloke, for instance. Phillips’ (1996) profile of the Kiwi bloke is in some ways reminiscent of Bayard’s notion of charisma. City speech is monolithic (e.g. cities tend to sound relatively similar vs rural; Haven’t noticed any difference between each of the centres) and characterised as fast or business-like; this introduces our first clue that perceptions about locality and social class merge or overlap.9

However, by far the most notable responses are the ones we elicited from focusing attention directly on Auckland. Nearly half of all respondents indicated that people from West Auckland and the North Shore speak distinctively and fully 83% of all respondents associate South Auckland with a distinct speech style. These are all highly urbanized areas; we must look to something other than an urban-rural axis to account for the perceptions reported here.

7 Aesthetic and social evaluations

We sorted the data again to show what kinds of attributes were associated with the various regions that respondents identified. The meta-labels that we constructed based on the specific comments provided are the basis of Figure 2. The percentages now tell us what proportions of the comments about each region were concerned with ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or general indicators of (un)pleasantness or linguistic features.10

Prominent meta-labels per dialect area.
Figure 2

Prominent meta-labels per dialect area.

As we can see, our Auckland-based respondents are more likely to cite linguistic features when identifyingareas furthest away from them, and more likely to associate areas close to them with social and aesthetic attributes. We can also see that different areas are more or less strongly associated with aesthetic evaluations of the speech (captured by the “pleasantness” tag) and others with evaluations of typical speakers.

In Figure 3, we provide more of the detail hidden beneath our meta-labels. Here, the size of alabel on the map is indicative of how often variants of that term occurred in the responses for eachregion. The font size correlates with the number of comments that were associated with a label:“Roll R’s” was associated with 52 comments about the lower South Island, “Maori” with 38comments for Northland and ten for South Auckland (we did not annotate for fewer than ten comments).

This figure makes it clear that the tags “pleasantness” and “ethnicity” mask a certain amount of diversity too. We have treated “slang” as commentary on linguistic feature(s) but it was clear from the way the term is used by many of the respondents that it is also linked to social class and education (Andersson and Trudgill 1990; Wolfram and Shilling-Estes 2006), e.g. white trash slang to describe West Auckland.

Prominent labels. The font size correlates with the number of comments associated with a label.
Figure 3

Prominent labels. The font size correlates with the number of comments associated with a label.

What strikes us about Figures 2 and 3 is what is absent and implicit as much as what is overtly present. There is an absence of any overt commentary on working or lower class speech, and within Auckland there are very few comments on Maori speakers. This is not because our respondents were reluctant to talk about class: the North Shore, Howick and Central Auckland all elicited comments that were clearly oriented to education, wealth and status (as indeed were comments about other regions). The Auckland districts associated with status comments are also areas where there are comments on the pleasantness or properness of the speech. This establishes a semiotic link between positive evaluations of speech in the North Shore and Central Auckland and overt comments on (high) socioeconomic status.

When labelling South Auckland, respondents had no difficulty in providing rich and detailed comments. The majority of these are in some way negative, e.g. rough English; Wannabe gangsta; gangster, slang, rough, swearing, bad pronunciation; Dominantly pacific people, broken English; slang and rough as if they always have something in their mouth; Pacific influences, speak slower, more words like “awwww” “bro” (slang); some in West and South Auckland seem to speak in a different structure or double negatives or “gangster”. People in this area have a large number of Pacific Island immigrants. The way they may say things is improper, slurred words, some with no grammatical sense; rugged/street Pacific islanders. A lot of slang, “bro”, “dry”, “ace”, “for the brothers”; Maori/Pacific island (pidgin English). However, it is notable that there are no overt comments about social class. Nevertheless, there are reasons why we would argue that class is implicitly relevant and central to the comments: some of these are linguistic; some are structural.

The linguistic evidence lies in the fact that some of the terms in Figure 3 are covert indexes for social class. “Bogan” and “Westie” may increasingly refer non-judgementally to lifestyle choices (Harvey 2011), but they are definitely working class, and not middle class, cosmopolitan, lifestyle choices. Likewise, we believe the terms “gangster”/“gangsta” and “rough” in South and West Auckland refer to a set of sub-altern and non-middle class life choices.

The structural evidence derives from the contrast between what is explicit about the links between language, evaluations and class in the North Shore and what is left implicit about South Auckland. In the North Shore, overt positive comments about language form are matched with overt comments on high social status. The overtly negative comments about language in South Auckland and the absence of any overt comments about social class means that respondents are able to implicitly take up a negative stance with respect to social class. This allows our respondents to avoid overtly violating the long-standing ideology that frames New Zealand society as one of equality or at least equal opportunities for upward mobility. To perpetuate this ideology, it is useful to erase or only implicitly acknowledge social statuses that are not part of the ideological target.

In this context, “slang”, which we coded principally as a comment on aspects of language, should be interpreted in a more nuanced way. Its association with areas that largely receive negative evaluative comments suggests that it is in fact a means of covertly attending to education, mastery of formal English and hence higher social class. We draw further, indirect, support for our claim from demographic data. The suburbs in South and West Auckland do have lower than average median incomes for the Auckland region, strengthening the case that respondents are indirectly indexing class in the descriptors they provide for these areas.11

How plausible is this? To what extent are the perceptions we have documented aligned with empirical facts? Quite well, as it happens, suggesting that people have well-attuned mental maps of key national and local demographic trends. Auckland suburbs associated with “posh”, “well-spoken” or “upper class” speech do indeed have higher median incomes than the Auckland average (New Zealand Statistics 2013).

Our respondents are also quite accurate in their perception of Northland and the Eastern North Island as being “Maori”. These are parts of New Zealand where there are large numbers of bilingual Maori-English speakers. And they are quite accurate in identifying Asian areas in Auckland – 39% of Howick’s population identified as Asian in the 2013 Census and nearly 20% spoke a Sinitic language (Auckland Council 2014a); 29% of the North Shore population identified as Asian (Auckland Council 2014b), both figures well above the Auckland and New Zealand averages.12

Interestingly, comments about Pacific Islander and/or Maori speakers in Auckland were associated with alternate varieties of English; the use of heritage Pacific languages is mentioned only in the context of borrowings into English. Despite Maori being one of New Zealand’s three national languages, this suggests that Maori remains perceptually invisible. More people in South Auckland are likely to speak Maori than in the city as a whole, but Aucklanders do not perceive this ethnolinguistic group. In some parts of South Auckland, over 30% of the population speak Samoan or Tongan, but because the kinds of evaluative comments about multilingualism in different communities diverge, it appears that multilingualism in the Pasifika communities is not recognised or valorized in the way that it is in Asian communities. This may reflect wider attitudes towards Polynesia, a cluster of islands valued as a holiday destination, but not valued as countries with which to trade goods, skills or knowledge.

Our brief overview in this paper has highlighted the layering of social and aesthetic perceptions and suggested that they structurally enable New Zealanders to orient to differences in social class at a time when traditional ideologies of social equity are strained by economic change. The data is incredibly rich with considerable further qualitative or quantitative potential and future research will undoubtedly find more ways for it to illuminate language and social attitudes in New Zealand.

Appendix A

I am studying Linguistics at the University of Auckland and I would like to ask your help with a task. If you agree, it will take about 5 minutes. Do you have a copy of the Participant Information Sheet? Good. Let’s begin.

This exercise is designed to see where you think there are differences in the way people talk in New Zealand. This is not a test, there are no right or wrong answers, so don’t worry about answering “correctly”.

Below is a map of New Zealand with an enlarged section for Auckland.

  • Draw lines on the map where you think there are differences in how people talk.

  • Label the different areas that you have drawn on the map.

  • What do you think of how people talk in these areas? How would you describe people from these areas? Write these thoughts on the map.

We will combine your responses and other people’s responses and see if there are any patterns that emerge. If you’d like a copy of our results, please provide an email address below.

Email address (if you would like a copy of our results):

Appendix B

Keywords and categories

After the data was entered we ended up with 64 keywords, some that are arguably synonyms (“Westie” and “bogans”, “not formal” and “relaxed”) but we wanted to allow for different patterns to emerge. The keywords fall into five meta-categories:

  • Ethnicity/Nationality

  • Socioeconomic status

  • Linguistic fact

  • Pleasantness

  • Unknown

Ethnicity/Nationality concerns all keywords that refer to an ethnicity (e.g. Maori, European), a nationality (e.g. Australian), a regional community (Southerners), or a descriptive word whose focus is cultural or geographical (e.g. kiwi, foreigners, cosmopolitans): Asian, Australian, British, Cosmopolitan, European, Foreigners, Kiwi, Maori, Maori/Pacific Island, Monocultural, Pacific Islanders, Pakeha, Scottish, South African, Southerners

Socioeconomic status applies to all keywords designing socioeconomic groups, and includes comments about education (students, educated), lifestyle (hippies, surfers, bogans), type of settings (rural, urban): Bogans, Bro, Business, Educated, Farmers, Gangster, hippies, Insular, isolated, Not/less educated, Older generations, Rural, Shore Girls, Small towns, Student, surfers, Upper class/posh, Urban, Westie, Working/lower class

Linguistic facts includes keywords that describe a linguistic feature: Bach/crib, Deep/Broad/different accent, High pitch, Incorrect speech, Mixed accents, Neutral accent, Normal, own/different dialect, Roll “R’s”, Slang, special vocab, special vowels/consonants

The Pleasantness category regroups keywords that focused on respondents’ feelings about the people or language of the area commented on: careful speech, Drawl, Fast, Formal, Lazy, Not formal, Pleasant, Racist, Refined, Relaxed, Rough, Simple, slow, Snob, Well-spoken

17 entries could not be attributed to any keyword for various reasons (the writing was undecipherable or it defies simple keyword categorisation, examples (# indicates the map number):

talks about cars (#11, Hamilton); generally “cliquey” (#207), Auckland; The Naki (#18, Taranaki)

Finally, some respondents mentioned their inability to comment on specific areas. These entries were attributed an “unknown” keyword and category. These represent 8 comments out of 1,286.

General comments: 16 comments were logged separately since they (a) did not apply to any specific region or (b) were logged against a region but were considered general enough to be stored in the general comments table. Examples of these:

cities tend to sound relatively similar vs rural (#13); most dialects are socioeconomic+education (#43); Generally all Kiwis sound the same without a wide difference in accents other than people from different parts of the world (#49); Generally, Maoris in richly Maori-populated areas of a more lower class area say “f” to replace “th” (#52); Don’t really think of someone differently depending on how they speak. (#85); In New Zealand everyone talks fast!!(#196); variation between North – East Auckland and West – South Auckland is socio-economic, not a dialect. North – East=wealth, West – South=poorer, working class. (#129)


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  • 1

    An increase in inequality between the top and bottom 20% from a ration of 2.39 in 1984 to 2.97 in 2012 (OECD 2012). 

  • 2

    It is not entirely clear how well Huygen & Vaughan’s study controlled ethnicity and class in the stimuli materials, so it may be that the association between Māori speakers and lower middle class Pākehā speakers was an artefact of the speech samples used. 

  • 3

    See Appendix A. Students in Linguist 101/G at the University of Auckland in 2011 and 2012 were asked if they would like to donate maps they collected as part of their term assignment to enable a larger analysis to be undertaken. We’d like to thank those who did. Our thanks also to Anna Strycharz-Banas, who originally suggested conducting dialect surveys and who gave the lectures on language attitudes in 2011. 

  • 4

    The instructions asked students to only collect information from people who had grown up in NZ, and instructed them not to ask other linguistics students/staff. The target was to derive intuitions from non-linguists. We cannot know how faithfully the students followed these instructions, but based on our feedback in tutorials and lectures, we believe the responses sample a fairly wide range of people. Because the students taking the course as a General Education option come from across the university, we are confident that even if the responses have a bias in favour of university students, our sample is a more diverse one than surveys that are administered in linguistics, anthropology or psychology courses. 

  • 5

    Analogies from the US or the UK might be: circling Maine and labelling it Boston, or circling Aberdeen and labelling it Edinburgh. This sort of thing is not uncommon. 

  • 6

    Appendix B provides a more detailed account of the coding. 

  • 7

    Our data collection methods mean that some respondents might have been raised in New Zealand but only recently moved to Auckland. Their perceptions of intra-Auckland differences might be less acute than long-time Auckland residents. However, given that two thirds of Auckland residents were born elsewhere including other parts of NZ, we feel it would be artificial to exclude more recent internal migrants to the city. We believe our data is a representative snapshot of language attitudes within the city. 

  • 8

    In the online companion to this article, readers can access colour and interactive versions of the maps. When individual areas are selected on the interactive version of the map, representative comments are highlighted. 

  • 9

    The identification of Hamilton and its environs as a distinct speech variety is problematic for a dichotomy between urban and rural. Although Hamilton is the fourth largest city in New Zealand, most of its hinterland is still heavily dependent on and the region is still firmly associated with agriculture – for example, fans of the regional rugby team, the Waikato Chiefs, identify themselves at games by ringing cow bells. 

  • 10

    We use the term “feature” rather loosely to indicate any specific linguistic cues that might have been mentioned, not to indicate that respondents’ perceptions are necessarily empirically well-founded. 

  • 11

    The only exceptions are Waitakere, in West Auckland, and Franklin in South Auckland. Franklin is non-urban, farming country and Waitakere is non-urban retreats on the far West. Both could be said to be “two car” country, rather than areas where people rely on public transport. 

  • 12

    South Africans are harder to track using Census data: they can’t be reliably identified on the basis of ethnicity data or language data (Afrikaans- and English-speakers have migrated in large numbers). 

About the article

Published Online: 2014-12-18

Published in Print: 2015-12-01

Citation Information: Linguistics Vanguard, Volume 1, Issue 1, Pages 235–248, ISSN (Online) 2199-174X, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/lingvan-2014-1005.

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