Linguistics for everyone! February’s program was outstanding!

In February, we celebrate International Mother Language Day.  In celebration of this day, we heard a lecture by a distinguished Hungarian linguist, Dr. Krisztina Fehér.  She presented the results of her research about children’s perception of regional dialects of Hungarian.  A regional dialect is a variety of a language spoken in a particular geographical area. The common perception is that regional dialects are valuable language varieties. Yet, research has shown that adults often prefer those who speak the standard language as opposed to those who speak a regional dialect. The question Dr. Fehér’s research was designed to answer is whether children also prefer those who speak the standard language to those who speak a regional dialect and if so, at what age and in what way does this preference manifest itself? Her research sample included 5-7-year-old kindergarteners and 7-9-year-old first graders in a small town in Northeastern Hungary. In a crossed and matched design, the children heard a 1-minute story told (by the identical storyteller) both in the standard and the regional dialect.  The findings showed that even the youngest participants preferred the standard language, and this preference was even stronger in the later age-group cohort.  A lively discussion followed where participants drew comparisons to preferences for standard language in the United States and how these prejudices challenge instruction in the educational system.   Dr. Feher is studying language patterns among bilingual Hungarian speakers in Cleveland and we hope to invite her back to describe those results as well.


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