Measurement Techniques

Annika Hohenthal, Department of English, University of Turku, Finland

There are three assessment techniques relevant to the study of language attitudes: content analysis of societal treatment, direct measurement and indirect measurement (Sebastian 1982: 7).

In the content analysis of societal treatment, language maintenance and shift are examined on the basis of analyses of laws and policies regarding language use in the public domain. An example of this type of language attitude study could be Fishman's (1966) Language Loyalty in the United States. These kind of studies provide the basis for descriptions of the standard language, as well as of language change (ibid, 7).

Another important method is the direct measurement technique, which observes language attitudes by the use of questionnaires (either in written form or in individual interviews). Frequently asked questions concern language evaluation, language preference, desirability and reasons for learning a particular language, evaluation of social groups who use a particular variety, self-reports concerning language use, desirability of bilingualism and bilingual education, and opinions concerning shifting or maintaining language policies. The method tends to focus upon beliefs (ibid, 7).

In a totally indirect method the subjects are not aware that it is their language attitudes that are being studied. Indirect language attitude techniques comprise speaker evaluation studies, such as matched-guise studies, in which hearers have to evaluate different varieties of a language spoken by the same speakers. Speaker evaluation studies form the basis of the socio-psychological perspective on language attitudes (ibid, 8).

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