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Credibility Without Intelligibility: Implications for Hearing Vernacular Speakers

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Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Companion to the Work of John R. Rickford
Place of PublicationNew York and London
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020


This chapter is concerned with two axes of differentiation: accent intelligibility and speaker credibility. Research on language attitudes shows that perceptions of speaker credibility are mitigated by speaker accent: speakers of less standard or less intelligible speech varieties are also ‘heard’ as less truthful (Scherer 1979; O’Barr 1982; Payne et al. 2000; Rickford and King 2016e). While some of this work has argued that this link has a cognitive basis (e.g., Lev-Ari and Keysar 2010), we focus on its ideological underpinnings (e.g., Lippi-Green 2012), by drawing on a context in which heavier accents result in the perception of greater credibility. Contexts such as these illuminate the profound discrimination and bias underlying statements that treat the link between intelligibility and credibility as given.

    Research areas

  • sociolinguistics, social justice, intelligibility, tourism, accents, linguistic variation, social class, ethnicity, variation, English, credibility, Scotland

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