College-Bound Girls May Feel Pressure to 'Speak Properly'

Study found they were more likely to drop their 'local' accent

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WEDNESDAY, Dec. 26 (HealthDay News) -- As they near the end of high school, some teen girls feel increasing pressure to speak properly, while others don't feel the need to change the way they talk, a small new study finds.

"It seems as if in high school, students who want to go to a good college are the ones who early on begin to dial back their use of nonstandard language," Suzanne Evans Wagner, an assistant professor of linguistics at Michigan State University in East Lansing, said in a university news release.

"And the ones who have no aspirations to leave their local community, or who have no particular aspirations to raise their social class, are the people who have no obvious social incentives to change the way they speak," she added.

In her study, Wagner monitored the language trends of a small group of 16- to 19-year-old females in Philadelphia from their high school senior year into their college freshmen year. She recorded how often they used the suffix "-ing" instead of "-in'" in words. For example, did they say "running" or "runnin'"?

Girls who attended or planned to attend a national research institution increased their use of the more socially acceptable "-ing" pronunciation the most. There was only a slight increase in the use of "-ing" among those who planned to attend a community college, a liberal arts college or a regional small school.

Major research institutions attract students from around the country and these students seem to be happy to adopt a level of speech that's acceptable to society, Wagner said. But students who attend a regional or two-year college often come from the local area and may feel pressured to sound "local," she added.

The study was published in the journal Language Variation and Change.

More information

The Nemours Foundation offers tips for parents on how to communicate with their teen children.

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