The impact of linguistic bias upon speech-language pathologists’ attitudes towards non-standard dialects of English

Emma Louise Clark, Catherine Easton, Sarah Verdon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Dialectal variations are present in all languages, originating from cultural, geographic and socioeconomic diversity. This study investigates speech-language pathologists’ (SLPs) linguistic bias towards non-standard language forms and dialects, and factors that may impact on these attitudes. Language attitude studies reveal that negative attitudes towards variation can lead to bias against speakers of non-standard dialects. If SLPs hold linguistic bias towards speakers of non-standard dialects, this has the potential to impact upon their clinical judgement of difference vs. disorder and lead to inequality of service provision. A total of 129 Australian SLPs completed an online survey, which involved ranking 28 attitudinal statements regarding language variation on a 5-point scale from strongly disagree to strongly agree. The survey data were analysed using a factor analysis in SPSS to identify latent factors that identified attitudes towards non-standard dialects followed by inferential analyses to investigate how attitudes were related to the demographic data of participants. Results identified five key factors from the survey, these were (1) Use of non-standard English, (2) Language purity, (3) Diversity in form, (4) Social acceptability, and (5) Prescriptive language rules. SLPs held generally positive attitudes towards the use of non-standard forms and the socially determined acceptability of language. SLPs were more neutral in their attitudes towards diversity in form and the need for prescriptive rules and generally held negative views towards language purity (e.g., the use of “youse” as a plural form of you). A significantly positive association was found between professional development (PD) on cultural and linguistic diversity and positive attitudes towards Factors 1 and 3. Years of practice were significantly related to Factor 2, with less experienced SLPs holding more negative views relating to language purity. While many SLPs identify the value of language variation and its reflection of a person’s cultural and linguistic diversity, negative attitudes towards non-standard forms and variation in school and occupational settings have the potential to negatively impact differential diagnosis, goal setting and the delivery of culturally responsive speech-language pathology services to speakers of non-standard dialects.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)542-559
Number of pages18
JournalClinical Linguistics and Phonetics
Issue number6
Early online date12 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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