Towards capturing implicit innovative language attitude using an auditory Implicit Association Test

Andrea Deme, Katalin Gugán, Bálint Sass, Katalin Mády


Since the birth of sociolinguistics the localization of innovative speakers has been regarded as a key issue in the study of language change. For this purpose, researchers traditionally categorize the speakers of a speech community on the basis of demographic and socioeconomic features; however, these parameters prove not to be sufficient to identify innovative speakers in all cases. It may be argued, however, that the speaker’s implicit attitude towards linguistic innovations may also be captured and may be a good indicator of the speaker’s innovative linguistic behavior. This line of research is not yet well elaborated on, probably due to the complexity of the attitude construct (which makes the measurement of implicit attitudes a challenging task), and the difficulty of grasping attitude towards linguistic innovations as such. The present study aims at addressing the potentials present in this aspect of sociolinguistic investigation. We review the psychological literature on the attitude construct and propose that a method borrowed from social psychology, the Implicit Association Test (IAT), may be adapted for the measurement of implicit attitude towards linguistic innovations if used with a linguistic variable that is subject to an ongoing language change as the test variable (or target). We report a pre-test conducted for variable selection for the adaptation of the IAT, and analyze data gathered by means of this newly created method for capturing implicit innovative linguistic attitude. We propose that this new IAT may be a useful tool in language change studies.

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