Stephen Colbert and Stigmatization

When listing our possible things one can discern from the “voice behind the door,” region came up quite quickly, and with it the idea of stigmatization of certain dialects, in particular Southern varieties of American English. Stephen Colbert is an example of someone who, being raised as a native speaker of Southern American English, realized the stigma of his dialect could adversely affect his career. He currently effects his current “Standard American English” accent as part of his character; however in this link, a video clip is shown where around 0:22 Stephen slips back into his native dialect while welcoming his guest. A quote a bit farther down explains his view on his original dialect:

At a very young age, I decided I was not gonna have a southern accent. Because people, when I was a kid watching TV, if you wanted to use a shorthand that someone was stupid, you gave the character a southern accent. And that’s not true. Southern people are not stupid. But I didn’t wanna seem stupid. I wanted to seem smart. And so I thought, ‘Well, you can’t tell where newsmen are from'”

The idea of stigmatization is particularly interesting to me, not only for how the “superior” group views and acts towards the marginalized group, but also for how this stigmatization affects self-perception in the marginalized group itself.

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One Response to Stephen Colbert and Stigmatization

  1. Kara Becker says:

    Brice, all great points that I hope we’ll bring into discussions of 1) linguistic insecurity (higher for some groups than others, Southerners being a group with high insecurity), and 2) language ideologies.

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