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Prologue: Language Challenges in the 21st CenturyAs immigration and mobility increases, so do interactions between people from different linguistic backgrounds. Yet while linguistic diversity offers many benefits, it also comes with a number of challenges. In seven empirical articles and one commentary, this Special Issue addresses some of the most significant language challenges facing researchers in the 21st century: the power language has to form and perpetuate stereotypes, the contribution language makes to intersectional identities, and the role of language in shaping intergroup relations. By presenting work that aims to shed light on some of these issues, the goal of this Special Issue is to (a) highlight language as integral to social processes and (b) inspire researchers to address the challenges we face. To keep pace with the world’s constantly evolving linguistic landscape, it is essential that we make progress toward harnessing language’s power in ways that benefit 21st century globalized societies.
When speaking English is not enough: The consequences of Language-based stigma for non-native speakersWe explored the effects of language-based stigma on the relationship between native and non-native speakers. In two studies we found that stigmatized non-native speakers experienced more negative interpersonal interactions, higher levels of intergroup threat, and reduced performance on an English test compared to non-native speakers who did not experience stigma. These effects were mediated by anxiety and moderated by prevention-related goals. Furthermore, native speakers perceived stigmatized (vs. not-stigmatized) speakers’ accents as stronger and their commitment to living in the host country as weaker. Our findings suggest that experiencing language-based stigma can: a) incite a stereotype threat response from non-native speakers, and b) damage their relationship with native speakers on an interpersonal and intergroup level.
Where Are You From? An Investigation into the Intersectionality of Accent Strength and Nationality Status on Perceptions of Non-native Speakers in BritainWe explore how interpersonal and intergroup perceptions are affected by a non-native speaker’s accent strength and the status of their home country. When nationality information was absent (Study 1), natives who heard a strong (vs. weak) accent rated the speaker as warmer but immigrants as a group as more threatening. This result was replicated when the speaker’s nationality was familiar (Study 2) but in this study, country status further shaped accent-based perceptions: the strong (vs. weak) accented speaker evoked more positive interpersonal perceptions when her country status was low, but more negative intergroup perceptions when her country status was high. When the status of the speaker’s nationality was manipulated (Study 3), we replicated the interpersonal perceptions found in Study 1 and the intergroup perceptions found in Study 2. Findings support a holistic approach to investigating perceptions of non-native speakers: one that considers nationality as well as accent strength.