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Purpose: Accents may have an impact on how a speaker’s personality is perceived, and such dynamics may impact the therapeutic relationship. This study examined how speech-language pathology students in the Acadiana (Cajun) area of Louisiana perceive speakers of Cajun English (CE), Standard American English (SAE), and Standard Southern English (SE) on 2 dimensions of personality perception: solidarity (social closeness) and competence (education and intelligence).

Method: An online survey was completed by 73 of the 285 undergraduate and master’s students at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Participants were presented with a standardized reading sample in each of the target accents. Target accents were not disclosed to participants. Students were asked to rate the speakers on a 6-point Likert scale for each of the 5 items in either dimension.

Results: The CE speaker was rated higher than the SAE and SE speakers on 4 out of 5 measures of solidarity (Sociable, Likable, Friendly, and Kind), whereas the SAE speaker was rated higher than the CE or SE speakers on 2 out of 5 measures of competence (Educated and Intelligent). These results are in line with previous findings regarding the perception of personality traits in speakers of standard versus nonstandard, in-group accents.

Conclusion: Despite the fact that training in linguistics is part of their curriculum, speech-language pathology students in the Acadiana area showed stereotypical patterns of accent perception. It is suggested that speech-language pathology education might benefit from targeting students’ preconceptions in order to help students appreciate the uniqueness of each client.

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Journal Article

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