Standard language dynamics in postcolonial Suriname Measuring language attitudes and ideologies in Paramaribo

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Anne-Sophie Ghyselen, Stefan Grondelaers, Sita Doerga Misier-Patadien, Usha Balesar

Ghyselen, A.-S., Grondelaers, S et al. (2022) Standard language dynamics in postcolonial Suriname Measuring language attitudes and ideologies in Paramaribo. Lingua, Vol. 273, 103340.


This paper reports a large-scale survey into the language attitudes of 485 participants from the Surinamese capital Paramaribo. Suriname is an interesting arena for standard language research, as the country is steeped in multilingualism but regards the Dutch of its former colonizer as its only official language. We elicited evaluations of 10 languages spoken in Suriname in response to label- and audio-based stimuli. Responses were enriched with valence information (pertaining to their  positive/negative character), and subjected to qualitative scrutiny and regression analysis. Theoretically, our findings indicate that Suriname is embracing the endonormative development of a Surinamese variety of Dutch, which is becoming an obvious and uncontested practical norm variety. American English is also deemed prestigious, but its superiority perceptions pertain for the most part to a (desired) ideological status rather than to any suitability as a practical lingua franca. Sranan, finally, is valued as a solidarity standard, but it lacks the prestige correlates which are a prerequisite for standard status. Methodologically, this paper demonstrates that harvesting language attitudes in multi-ethnic, multilingual societies necessitates an exploratory attitude, a ‘wide net’, and a concomitantly large toolbox of experimental techniques. Keywords: Suriname; Language attitudes; Language ideology; Language standards; Standard language; Free response technique.

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