Sociolinguistic variation among Slovak immigrants in Edinburgh, Scotland
Elliott Slosarova, Zuzana
This thesis investigates sociolinguistic variation among highly fluent Slovak-English bilingual women and also long-term immigrants residing in Edinburgh, Scotland. The present study adds to existing literature on urban migratory experiences (Block, 2008; Forsberg, Lundell and Bartning, 2015; Howley, 2015), comparing cross-cultural variation of immigrants’ speech with their local peers (Drummond, 2010, 2012; Meyerhoff et al., 2009), by exploring linguistic and social constraints on language attitudes and accent acquisition among bilingual Slovak immigrants. Sociolinguistic interview data were obtained from 32 women, ages 22-46: 20 Slovak immigrants, 8 Edinburgh Scottish participants, and 6 bilingual Slovak teachers of English in Slovakia. By considering linguistic and social factors that influence Slovak immigrants’ variation, in this thesis I ask not just whether and to what extent do local language communities shape immigrants’ identity, but also how their identity affects their language attitudes and pronunciation. The thesis pays particular attention to how implicit and explicit language attitudes combine to establish what Block (2008) called a “multidimensional” identity in immigrants. Further investigation establishes a link between identity and production (Redinger and Llamas, 2014; Podesva et al., 2015) by drawing on the variationist sociolinguistic methodologies set out by Labov (1966, 2001, 2006). Implicit language attitudes were collected via a Verbal Guise Task (VGT), during which participants evaluated speakers of foreign and native English accents (Campbell- Kibler, 2006; McKenzie, 2015; McKenzie and Carrie, 2018). Explicit attitudes were collected via a questionnaire designed to elicit attitudes in a casual setting (Dörnyei and Csizér, 2012). The combination of methodologies revealed that immigrant participants in the study held complex attitudes and motivations in relation to their host country. The results for language attitudes suggested that long-term Slovak immigrants experienced shifts to their identity while residing in Scotland, with most adopting a transnational identity that made them amenable to local language communities while maintaining connections with their home country. Their identity represented a degree of integration with Scottish communities, but transnational immigrants often felt separate from both home and host countries as a result. The present study also explores connection between identity and production which is now well recognised (Kobiałka, 2016; Regan, 2016; Regan and Ni Chasaide, 2010; Bucholtz, 2011). Immigrant participants’ pronunciations of FACE and GOAT vowel lexical sets (Wells, 1982) were evaluated in comparison to two language groups that represented different standards of pronunciation: native Scottish participants in Edinburgh, with more monophthongal pronunciations (Schützler, 2015); and English-Slovak bilinguals residing in Trnava, Slovakia, whose vowel productions were highly diphthongal and similar to Received Pronunciation (RP) constructions. Comparative study of pronunciations revealed that the immigrants’ FACE and GOAT realisations were relatively more monophthongal than the non-immigrant Slovak group, yet more diphthongal than the native Scottish group – effectively making immigrant Slovaks’ mean pronunciations separate and distinct from both native standard varieties. However, the immigrant’s pronunciations varied widely, and data modelling revealed associations between key social factors and pronunciation. Settings of high formality, strong European and Slovak identities, and intentions to return to Slovakia were associated with relatively more diphthongal pronunciations. Decreased formality, strong Scottish identities, and lack of formal education before immigration were associated with relatively more monophthongal pronunciations. Key findings in the study reinforce observations of multi-cultural identities in longterm Slovak immigrants. Drawing on work that explores variation in language attitudes (Clark and Schleef, 2010) and production in migratory settings (Meyerhoff and Schleef, 2014), I argue that there is a tendency for immigrants to shape their multi-cultural identities in response to linguistic and social contexts. However, internal contexts such as self-definition were equally important in shaping identities, which in turn affected language attitudes and pronunciation.