Want to keep learning?

This content is taken from the University of York's online course, An Introduction to Sociolinguistics: Accents, Attitudes and Identity. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 5 seconds Earlier on this week of the course, we briefly touched on a method for collecting language attitudes called the Implicit Association Test. If you recall, that method tests for automatic, or instinctive, associations between a category (such as accent group) and positive or negative traits (such as being friendly or rude). Another more recent method used to investigate attitudes of this kind is known as the Social Category Association Test, or the SCAT. The SCAT is an adaptation of the Implicit Association Test, which looks at the degree to which members of a speech community share an association between a particular pronunciation (such as pronouncing the ‘r sound in the word ‘car’) and a social category (such as ‘Scotland’).

Skip to 0 minutes and 51 seconds It also tests the speed with which the association is made by the person taking the test. If there is a high level of community agreement on the association of a pronunciation with the social category of interest, we can be confident that the particular pronunciation does carry that social meaning. Fast response times also tell us about the strength of the association. We can look at a variety of pronunciation features in this way and build a picture of which features are more or less salient to the members of the speech community in terms of the social meaning they carry.

Skip to 1 minute and 26 seconds Later in Week 3, we’ll take a closer look at a research project based at the University of York called the Accent and Identity on the Scottish/English Border project, or AISEB. Here the SCAT was developed and used to see whether people living in areas along the Scottish/English border associated certain sounds with Scotland or England. For example, Scottish is often associated with what we call ‘rhoticity’ - the /r/ sound found at the end of words like ‘car’ or ‘farm’, as opposed to more ‘English’ pronunciations like ‘car’ or ‘farm’. What we found was that there was more agreement among participants on the association of not pronouncing ‘r’ with being English than of pronouncing ‘r’ with being Scottish.

Skip to 2 minutes and 10 seconds So what does this finding tell us? Well, it seems to back up the previous research in this area. But what we can now say is not only are there differences in how stable or not rhoticity is in different speech communities along the Scottish/English border, but also that the perception of an association with the sound and the social category of ‘Scotland’ is different too and mirrors the patterns in speech. By using the SCAT, it was possible to see the levels of community agreement on this association which we can then tie to what people actually produce in speech.

The Social Category Association Test (SCAT)

In this video, Dr Sam Hellmuth describes the Social Category Association Test (SCAT) and how it works in sociolinguistic research.

Share your thoughts on this with your fellow learners in the usual way.

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

An Introduction to Sociolinguistics: Accents, Attitudes and Identity

University of York

Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join: