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Thesis defences

PhD Oral Exam - Kimberly Taylor, Education

Exploring social attitudes toward second language speakers of English across Canada

Wednesday, August 24, 2022 (all day)

This event is free


School of Graduate Studies


Daniela Ferrer



When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.

Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.


Nearly a fifth of Canada's population is represented by people from other countries, most of whom speak languages other than English or French. Though there has been some exploration of social attitudes toward these ethnolinguistic groups, there have been no pan-Canadian investigations of social attitudes, particularly toward second language (L2) speakers, in major cities where immigrant populations are most concentrated. Furthermore, there have been few studies that present speech samples alongside images suggesting speaker ethnicity and/or religious affiliation. Therefore, this dissertation explores ratings of L2 speakers across multiple dimensions and considers the role of social attitudes and social network exposure in formation of those judgments.

Study 1 explored how residents of Calgary and Montreal judge the comprehensibility and accentedness of L2 speech in audio-only and audiovisual conditions and whether those judgments are associated with residents' overall social attitudes toward immigrants. There were no context or image effects, but differences emerged among ratings of certain language groups, as well as raters' general attitudes toward immigrants. Ultimately, raters' attitudes were not associated with their ratings of L2 speech.

Study 2 explored how native-born residents of Canada judge L2 speakers' intelligence, friendliness, and trustworthiness and investigated how those judgments might be related to residents' general social attitudes toward immigrants. No significant differences emerged between speech samples presented as audio-only versus with a nonreligious or religious image. However, there was a clear hierarchy in how specific language groups were evaluated. Social attitudes questionnaire responses revealed generally positive social attitudes toward immigrants. Ultimately, those attitudes had weak relationships with rater judgments of L2 speakers' intelligence, friendliness, and trustworthiness.

Study 3 explored how native-born residents of Montreal and Calgary compared in judgments of L2 speaker citizenship and how those judgments might be related to raters' L2 social networks. No differences based on image condition or context surfaced in judgments of L2 speaker citizenship. However, specific language groups differed in how their citizenship status was perceived. There were also between-context differences in native-born residents' interactions with L2 speakers. Ultimately, social network characteristics had no influence on citizenship ratings in either context.

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