1932

Abstract

Social groups are a pervasive feature of human life. One factor that is often understudied in the literature on person perception and social categorization is language. Yet, someone's language (and accent) provides a tremendous amount of social information to a listener. Disciplines across the social and behavioral sciences—ranging from linguistics to anthropology to economics—have exposed the social significance of language. Less social psychological research has historically focused on language as a vehicle for social grouping. Yet, new approaches in psychology are reversing this trend. This article first reviews evidence, primarily from psycholinguistics, documenting how speech provides social information. Next it turns to developmental psychology, showing how young humans begin to see others’ language as conveying social group information. It then explores how the tendency to see language as a social cue has vast implications for people's psychological processes (e.g., psychological essentialism and trust) and also for society, including education and the law.

Loading

Article metrics loading...

/content/journals/10.1146/annurev-psych-010418-103034
2021-01-04
2024-06-25
Loading full text...

Full text loading...

/deliver/fulltext/psych/72/1/annurev-psych-010418-103034.html?itemId=/content/journals/10.1146/annurev-psych-010418-103034&mimeType=html&fmt=ahah

Literature Cited

  1. Anderson RC, Klofstad CA, Mayew WJ, Venkatachalam M 2014. Vocal fry may undermine the success of young women in the labor market. PLOS ONE 9:5e97506
    [Google Scholar]
  2. Anisfeld M, Bogo N, Lambert WE 1962. Evaluational reactions to accented English speech. J. Abnorm. Soc. Psychol. 65:4223–31
    [Google Scholar]
  3. Asher JJ, Garcia R. 1969. The optimal age to learn a foreign language. Mod. Lang. J. 53:334–41
    [Google Scholar]
  4. Babel M. 2010. Dialect divergence and convergence in New Zealand English. Lang. Soc. 39:4437–56Speech accommodation is predicted by the social biases that a participant feels about a speaker.
    [Google Scholar]
  5. Barrett M. 2007. Children's Knowledge, Beliefs, and Feelings About Nations and National Groups Hove, UK: Psychol. Press
    [Google Scholar]
  6. Baugh J. 1995. The law, linguistics, and education: educational reform for African American language minority students. Linguist. Educ. 7:87–105
    [Google Scholar]
  7. Begus K, Gliga T, Southgate V 2016. Infants’ preferences for native speakers are associated with an expectation of information. PNAS 113:12397–402
    [Google Scholar]
  8. Bodenhausen GV, Kang SK, Peery D 2012. Social categorization and the perception of social groups. The SAGE Handbook of Social Cognition S Fiske, CN Macrae 311–29 London: SAGE
    [Google Scholar]
  9. Buhmann D, Trudell B. 2008. Mother Tongue Matters: Local Language as a Key to Effective Learning Paris: UNESCO
    [Google Scholar]
  10. Buttelmann D, Daum M, Zmyj N, Carpenter M 2013. Selective imitation of in-group over out-group members in 14-month-old infants. Child Dev 84:422–28
    [Google Scholar]
  11. Byers-Heinlein K, Behrend D, Said LM, Giris H, Poulin-Dubois D 2017. Monolingual and bilingual children's social preferences for monolingual and bilingual speakers. Dev. Sci. 20:4e12392
    [Google Scholar]
  12. Byers‐Heinlein K, Garcia B. 2015. Bilingualism changes children's beliefs about what is innate. Dev. Sci. 18:344–50
    [Google Scholar]
  13. Cargile A, Giles H, Ryan E, Bradac J 1994. Language attitudes as a social process: a conceptual model and new directions. Lang. Commun. 14:211–36
    [Google Scholar]
  14. Corriveau K, Harris PL. 2009. Choosing your informant: weighing familiarity and recent accuracy. Dev. Sci. 12:426–37
    [Google Scholar]
  15. Corriveau K, Kinzler KD, Harris P 2013. Accuracy trumps accent in children's endorsement of object labels. Dev. Psychol. 49:470–79
    [Google Scholar]
  16. Dailey R, Giles H, Jansma LL 2005. Language attitudes in an Anglo-Hispanic context: the role of the linguistic landscape. Lang. Commun. 25:27–38
    [Google Scholar]
  17. Dautel J, Kinzler KD. 2018. Once a French-speaker, always a French-speaker? Bilingual children's reasoning about the malleability of language. Cogn. Sci. 42:287–302
    [Google Scholar]
  18. Day R. 1980. The development of linguistic attitudes and preferences. TESOL Q 14:27–37
    [Google Scholar]
  19. Degraff M. 2005. Linguists’ most dangerous myth: the fallacy of Creole exceptionalism. Lang. Soc. 34:533–91
    [Google Scholar]
  20. DeJesus J, Dautel J, Hwang HG, Kinzler KD 2017. Bilingual children's social preferences hinge on accent. J. Exp. Child Psychol. 164:178–91
    [Google Scholar]
  21. DeJesus J, Dautel J, Hwang HG, Park C, Kinzler KD 2018. American = English-speaker before American = white: the development of children's reasoning about national identity. Child Dev 89:51752–67
    [Google Scholar]
  22. Devine PG. 1989. Stereotypes and prejudice: their automatic and controlled components. J. Personal. Soc. Psychol. 56:15–18
    [Google Scholar]
  23. Dunham Y, Baron AS, Banaji MR 2008. The development of implicit intergroup cognition. Trends Cogn. Sci. 12:248–53
    [Google Scholar]
  24. Dunham Y, Baron AS, Carey S 2011. Consequences of “minimal” group affiliations in children. Child Dev 82:3793–811
    [Google Scholar]
  25. Eckert P. 2004. Adolescent language. Language in the USA: Themes for the Twenty-First Century E Finegan, J Rickford 361–74 Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press
    [Google Scholar]
  26. Fan S, Liberman Z, Keysar B, Kinzler KD 2015. The exposure advantage: Early exposure to a multilingual environment promotes effective communication. Psychol. Sci. 26:1090–97
    [Google Scholar]
  27. Fiske ST. 1998. Stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination. The Handbook of Social Psychology DT Gilbert, ST Fiske, G Lindzey 357–411 New York: McGraw-Hill
    [Google Scholar]
  28. Fiske ST, Cuddy AJC, Glick P 2007. Universal dimensions of social cognition: warmth and competence. Trends Cogn. Sci. 11:277–83
    [Google Scholar]
  29. Fiske ST, Neuberg SL. 1990. A continuum of impression formation, from category-based to individuating processes: influences of information and motivation on attention and interpretation. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology MP Zanna , Vol. 231–74 New York: Academic
    [Google Scholar]
  30. Flege JE, Munro MJ, Mackay IRA 1995. Effects of age of second-language learning on the production of English consonants. Speech Commun 16:11–26
    [Google Scholar]
  31. Floccia C, Butler J, Goslin J, Ellis L 2009. Regional and foreign accent processing in English: Can listeners adapt. J. Psycholinguist. Res. 38:4379–412
    [Google Scholar]
  32. Gal S, Irvine JT. 2019. Signs of Difference: Language and Ideology in Social Life Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press
    [Google Scholar]
  33. Gelman SA. 2003. The Essential Child: Origins of Essentialism in Everyday Thought Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press
    [Google Scholar]
  34. Gergely G, Bekkering H, Király I 2002. Rational imitation in preverbal infants. Nature 415:755
    [Google Scholar]
  35. Gidney C, Dobrow J. 1998. The good, the bad, and the foreign: the use of dialect in children's animated television. Ann. Am. Acad. Political Soc. Sci. 557:105–19
    [Google Scholar]
  36. Giles H. 2016. Communication Accommodation Theory: Negotiating Personal Relationships and Social Identities Across Contexts New York: Cambridge Univ. Press
    [Google Scholar]
  37. Giles H, Billings A. 2008. Assessing language attitudes: speaker evaluation studies. The Handbook of Applied Linguistics A Davies, C Elder 187–209 Malden, MA: BlackwellA review of language and accent attitudes across disciplines.
    [Google Scholar]
  38. Giles H, Watson BM. 2012. The Social Meanings of Language, Dialect, and Accent: International Perspectives on Speech Styles New York: Peter Lang
    [Google Scholar]
  39. Gleitman LR, Newport EL. 1995. The invention of language by children: environmental and biological influences on the acquisition of language. Language: An Invitation to Cognitive Science LR Gleitman, M Liberman 1–24 Cambridge, MA: MIT Press
    [Google Scholar]
  40. Gluszek A, Dovidio JF. 2010a. Speaking with a nonnative accent: perceptions of bias, communication difficulties, and belonging. J. Lang. Soc. Psychol. 29:2224–34
    [Google Scholar]
  41. Gluszek A, Dovidio JF. 2010b. The way they speak: a social psychological perspective on the stigma of nonnative accents in communication. Personal. Soc. Psychol. Rev. 14:2214–37A review of the stigma experienced by non-native speakers.
    [Google Scholar]
  42. Greenwald AG, Banaji MR. 1995. Implicit social cognition: attitudes, self-esteem, and stereotypes. Psychol. Rev. 102:14–27
    [Google Scholar]
  43. Grogger J. 2011. Speech patterns and racial wage inequality. J. Hum. Resour. 46:1–25Speech patterns are correlated with earnings among young African American earners.
    [Google Scholar]
  44. Grogger J. 2019. Speech and wages. J. Hum. Resour. 54:926–52
    [Google Scholar]
  45. Grosjean F. 2010. Bilingual: Life and Reality Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press
    [Google Scholar]
  46. Hakuta K, Bialystok E, Wiley E 2003. Critical evidence: a test of the critical-period hypothesis for second-language acquisition. Psychol. Sci. 14:131–38
    [Google Scholar]
  47. Hansen K, Dovidio JF. 2016. Social dominance orientation, nonnative accents, and hiring recommendations. Cult. Divers. Ethn. Minor. Psychol. 22:4544–51
    [Google Scholar]
  48. Harrington J, Palethorpe S, Watson C 2000. Does the Queen speak the Queen's English. Nature 408:927–28
    [Google Scholar]
  49. Harris PL. 2015. Trusting What You're Told: How Children Learn from Others Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press
    [Google Scholar]
  50. Haslam N, Rothschild L, Ernst D 2000. Essentialist beliefs about social categories. Br. J. Soc. Psychol. 39:113–27
    [Google Scholar]
  51. Henderson AMA, Sabbagh MA, Woodward A 2012. Preschoolers’ selective learning is guided by the principle of relevance. Cognition 126:246–57
    [Google Scholar]
  52. Henrich J, Henrich N. 2007. Why Humans Cooperate: A Cultural and Evolutionary Explanation Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press
    [Google Scholar]
  53. Hirschfeld LA, Gelman SA. 1997. What young children think about the relationship between language variation and social difference. Cogn. Dev. 12:2213–38Children make inferences about people's social group membership based on the language they speak.
    [Google Scholar]
  54. Hollien HF. 2002. Forensic Voice Identification San Diego, CA: Academic
    [Google Scholar]
  55. Howard LH, Carrazza C, Woodward AL 2014. Neighborhood linguistic diversity predicts infants’ social learning. Cognition 133:2474–79
    [Google Scholar]
  56. Kinzler KD. 2020. How You Say It: Why You Talk the Way You Do and What It Says About You Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin HarcourtUnderstanding linguistic prejudice is critical for individuals and society.
    [Google Scholar]
  57. Kinzler KD, Corriveau KH, Harris PL 2011. Children's selective trust in native-accented speakers. Dev. Sci. 14:106–11
    [Google Scholar]
  58. Kinzler KD, Dautel J. 2012. Children's essentialist reasoning about language and race. Dev. Sci. 15:1131–38Children's thinking about the stability of language and race changes with age and social context.
    [Google Scholar]
  59. Kinzler KD, DeJesus JM. 2013a. Children's sociolinguistic evaluations of nice foreigners and mean Americans. Dev. Psychol. 49:4655–64
    [Google Scholar]
  60. Kinzler KD, DeJesus JM. 2013b. Northern = smart and Southern = nice: The development of accent attitudes in the U.S. Q. J. Exp. Psychol. 66:1146–58
    [Google Scholar]
  61. Kinzler KD, Dupoux E, Spelke ES 2007. The native language of social cognition. PNAS 104:3012577–80Beginning as early as infancy, children begin to express social preferences for native-accented speakers.
    [Google Scholar]
  62. Kinzler KD, Dupoux E, Spelke ES 2012a. “Native” objects and collaborators: Infants’ object choices and acts of giving reflect favor for native over foreign speakers. J. Cogn. Dev. 13:167–81
    [Google Scholar]
  63. Kinzler KD, Shutts K, Correll J 2010. Priorities in social categories. Eur. J. Soc. Psychol. 40:581–92
    [Google Scholar]
  64. Kinzler KD, Shutts K, DeJesus J, Spelke ES 2009. Accent trumps race in guiding children's social preferences. Soc. Cogn. 27:623–34
    [Google Scholar]
  65. Kinzler KD, Shutts K, Spelke ES 2012b. Language-based social preferences among multilingual children in South Africa. Lang. Learn. Dev. 8:215–32
    [Google Scholar]
  66. Labov W. 1966. The Social Stratification of English in New York City Washington, DC: Cent. Appl. Linguist.
    [Google Scholar]
  67. Labov W. 1972. Sociolinguistic Patterns Philadelphia: Univ. Pa. PressA sociolinguistics introduction to the social importance of language.
    [Google Scholar]
  68. Lambert WE, Anisfeld M, Yeni-Komshian G 1965. Evaluational reactions of Jewish and Arab adolescents to dialect and language variations. J. Personal. Soc. Psychol. 2:84–90
    [Google Scholar]
  69. Lambert WE, Frankel H, Tucker GR 1966. Judging personality through speech: a French-Canadian example. J. Commun. 16:305–21
    [Google Scholar]
  70. Lambert WE, Hodgson R, Gardner R, Fillenbaum S 1960. Evaluational reactions to spoken languages. J. Abnorm. Soc. Psychol. 60:44–51
    [Google Scholar]
  71. Lev-Ari S, Keysar B. 2010. Why don't we believe non-native speakers? The influence of accent on credibility. J. Exp. Soc. Psychol. 46:1093–96Listeners find facts conveyed in non-native speech to sound less credible.
    [Google Scholar]
  72. Liberman Z, Woodward AL, Keysar B, Kinzler KD 2017a. Exposure to multiple languages enhances communication skills in infancy. Dev. Sci. 20:11–11
    [Google Scholar]
  73. Liberman Z, Woodward AL, Kinzler KD 2017b. Preverbal infants infer third-party social structure based on linguistic group. Cogn. Sci. 41:S3622–34
    [Google Scholar]
  74. Liberman Z, Woodward A, Sullivan K, Kinzler KD 2016. Early emerging system for reasoning about the social nature of food. PNAS 113:349480–85
    [Google Scholar]
  75. Lindemann S. 2002. Listening with an attitude: a model of native-speaker comprehension of non-native speakers in the United States. Lang. Soc. 31:419–41
    [Google Scholar]
  76. Lippi-Green R. 2007. English with an Accent: Language, Ideology, and Discrimination in the United States New York: Routledge
    [Google Scholar]
  77. Matsuda MJ. 1991. Voices of America: accent, antidiscrimination, law, and a jurisprudence for the last reconstruction. Yale Law J 100:1329–407A legal review and analysis of accent and antidiscrimination law.
    [Google Scholar]
  78. McIntosh J. 2005. Language essentialism and social hierarchies among Giriama and Swahili. J. Pragmat. 37:121919–44
    [Google Scholar]
  79. Mehler J, Jusczyk P, Lambertz G, Halsted N, Bertoncini J, Amiel-Tison C 1988. A precursor of language acquisition in young infants. Cognition 29:2144–78
    [Google Scholar]
  80. Meltzoff AN. 1988. Infant imitation after a 1-week delay: long-term memory for novel acts and multiple stimuli. Dev. Psychol. 24:4470–76
    [Google Scholar]
  81. Messick DM, Mackie DM. 1989. Intergroup relations. Annu. Rev. Psychol. 40:45–81
    [Google Scholar]
  82. Meyer v. State of Nebraska, 107 Neb 657 1922.)
  83. Meyer v. State of Nebraska, 262 U.S 390 1923.)
  84. Moon C, Cooper RP, Fifer WP 1993. Two-day-olds prefer their native language. Infant Behav. Dev. 16:495–500
    [Google Scholar]
  85. Moon C, Lagercrantz H, Kuhl PK 2013. Language experienced in utero affects vowel perception after birth: a two-country study. Acta Paediatr 102:2156–60
    [Google Scholar]
  86. Mufwene SS, Rickford JR, Balley G, Baugh J 1998. African-American English: Structure, History, and Use New York: Routledge
    [Google Scholar]
  87. Nazzi T, Bertoncini J, Mehler J 1998. Language discrimination by newborns: toward an understanding of the role of rhythm. J. Exp. Psychol. Hum. Percept. Perform. 3:756–66
    [Google Scholar]
  88. Nazzi T, Jusczyk PW, Johnson EK 2000. Language discrimination by English-learning 5-month-olds: effects of rhythm and familiarity. J. Mem. Lang. 43:1–19
    [Google Scholar]
  89. Neuliep JW, Speten-Hansen K. 2013. The influence of ethnocentrism on social perceptions of nonnative accents. Lang. Commun. 33:3167–76
    [Google Scholar]
  90. Newport EL. 1990. Maturational constraints on language learning. Cogn. Sci. 14:111–28
    [Google Scholar]
  91. Ng SH. 2007. Language-based discrimination: blatant and subtle forms. J. Lang. Soc. Psychol. 26:2106–22
    [Google Scholar]
  92. Oppenheimer DM. 2008. The secret life of fluency. Trends Cogn. Sci. 12:237–41
    [Google Scholar]
  93. Pear TH. 1931. Voice and Personality London: Chapman & Hall
    [Google Scholar]
  94. Pietraszewski D, Schwartz A. 2014a. Evidence that accent is a dimension of social categorization, not a byproduct of perceptual salience, familiarity, or ease-of-processing. Evol. Hum. Behav. 35:143–50
    [Google Scholar]
  95. Pietraszewski D, Schwartz A. 2014b. Evidence that accent is a dedicated dimension of social categorization, not a byproduct of coalitional categorization. Evol. Hum. Behav. 35:151–57
    [Google Scholar]
  96. Pinker S. 1994. The Language Instinct New York: Harper
    [Google Scholar]
  97. Prentice DA, Miller DT. 2007. Psychological essentialism of human categories. Curr. Dir. Psychol. Sci. 16:4202–6
    [Google Scholar]
  98. Purnell T, Isardi W, Baugh J 1999. Perceptual and phonetic experiments on American English dialect identification. J. Lang. Soc. Psychol. 18:10–30
    [Google Scholar]
  99. Rakić T, Steffens MC, Mummendey A 2011. Blinded by the accent! The minor role of looks in ethnic categorization. J. Personal. Soc. Psychol. 100:116–29
    [Google Scholar]
  100. Ramjattan VA. 2019. Raciolinguistics and the aesthetic labourer. J. Ind. Relat. 61:5726–38
    [Google Scholar]
  101. Reizábal L, Valencia J, Barrett M 2004. National identifications and attitudes to national ingroups and outgroups amongst children living in the Basque Country. Infant Child Dev 13:11–20
    [Google Scholar]
  102. Rhodes M. 2013. How two intuitive theories shape the development of social categorization. Child Dev. Perspect. 7:12–16
    [Google Scholar]
  103. Rickford JR, King S. 2016. Language and linguistics on trial: hearing Rachel Jeantel (and other vernacular speakers) in the courtroom and beyond. Language 92:4948–88
    [Google Scholar]
  104. Rubin DL. 1992. Nonlanguage factors affecting undergraduates’ judgments of nonnative English-speaking teaching assistants. Res. High. Educ. 33:4511–31
    [Google Scholar]
  105. Rubin DL. 1998. Help! My professor (or doctor or boss) doesn't talk English!. Readings in Cultural Contexts JN Martin, TK Makayama, LA Flores 149–60 Mountain View, CA: Mayfield
    [Google Scholar]
  106. Rubin DL. 2012. The power of prejudice in accent perception: reverse linguistic stereotyping and its impact on listener judgments and decisions. Proceedings of the 3rd Pronunciation in Second Language Learning and Teaching Conference J Levis, K LeVelle 11–17 Ames, IA: Iowa State Univ.
    [Google Scholar]
  107. Rubin DL, Smith KA. 1990. Effects of accent, ethnicity, and lecture topic on undergraduates’ perceptions of nonnative English-speaking teaching assistants. Int. J. Intercult. Relat. 14:337–53
    [Google Scholar]
  108. Schieffelin BB, Woolard KA, Koskrity PV 1998. Language Ideologies: Practice and Theory New York: Oxford Univ. Press
    [Google Scholar]
  109. Schroeder J, Kardas M, Epley N 2017. The humanizing voice: Speech reveals, and text conceals, a more thoughtful mind in the midst of disagreement. Psychol. Sci. 28:1745–62
    [Google Scholar]
  110. Shell M. 2001. Language wars. CR New Centen. Rev. 1:1–17
    [Google Scholar]
  111. Shutts K, Kinzler KD, McKee C, Spelke ES 2009. Social information guides infants’ selection of foods. J. Cogn. Dev. 10:1–17
    [Google Scholar]
  112. Souza A, Byers-Heinlein K, Poulin-Dubois D 2013. Bilingual and monolingual children prefer native-accented speakers. Front. Psychol. 4:953
    [Google Scholar]
  113. Subtirelu NC. 2015. “She does have an accent but…”: race and language ideology in students’ evaluations of mathematics instructors on RateMyProfessors.com. Lang. Soc. 44:35–62
    [Google Scholar]
  114. Tajfel H. 2001. 1971. Experiments in intergroup discrimination. Intergroup Relations: Essential Readings MA Hogg, D Abrams 178–87 London: Psychol. Press
    [Google Scholar]
  115. Taylor SE, Fiske ST, Etcoff NL, Ruderman AJ 1978. Categorical and contextual bases of person memory and stereotyping. J. Personal. Soc. Psychol. 36:7778–93
    [Google Scholar]
  116. Weatherhead D, White KS, Friedman O 2016. Where are you from? Preschoolers infer background from accent. J. Exp. Child Psychol. 143:171–78
    [Google Scholar]
  117. Werker JF, Byers-Heinlein K. 2008. Bilingualism in infancy: first steps in perception and comprehension. Trends Cogn. Sci. 12:4144–51
    [Google Scholar]
  118. Werker JF, Hensch TK. 2015. Critical periods in speech perception: new directions. Annu. Rev. Psychol. 66:173–96
    [Google Scholar]
  119. Werker JF, Tees RC. 1984. Cross-language speech perception: evidence for perceptual reorganization during the first year of life. Infant Behav. Dev. 7:149–63
    [Google Scholar]
  120. Yow WQ, Markman EM. 2011a. Bilingualism and children's use of paralinguistic cues to interpret emotion in speech. Bilingualism 14:4562–69
    [Google Scholar]
  121. Yow WQ, Markman EM. 2011b. Young bilingual children's heightened sensitivity to referential cues. J. Cogn. Dev. 12:112–31
    [Google Scholar]
  122. Yow WQ, Markman EM. 2015. A bilingual advantage in how children integrate multiple cues to understand a speaker's referential intent. Bilingualism 18:3391–99
    [Google Scholar]
  123. Yu ACL, Abrego-Collier C, Sonderegger M 2013. Phonetic imitation from an individual-difference perspective: subjective attitude, personality, and “autistic” traits. PLOS ONE 8:9e74746
    [Google Scholar]
  124. Yuasa IP. 2010. Creaky voice: a new feminine voice quality for young urban-oriented upwardly mobile American women?. Am. Speech 85:3315–37
    [Google Scholar]
  125. Zhoa B, Ondrich J, Yinger J 2006. Why do real estate brokers continue to discriminate? Evidence from the 2000 housing discrimination study. J. Urban Econ. 59:394–419
    [Google Scholar]
/content/journals/10.1146/annurev-psych-010418-103034
Loading
  • Article Type: Review Article
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error