Model C accents trusted more, according to study
Popularly known as “the twang”, accents of black South Africans who attended what were formerly whites-only schools are now almost indistinguishable from white South African mother-tongue English speakers.
Two researchers at the University of Cape Town (UCT) have taken a scientific approach to the question.
Ece Yagman, a research officer at the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (Saldru) and Malcolm Keswell, associate professor of economics at UCT-Saldru, investigated discrimination according to race and accent by observing a “trust game” played among student volunteers.
Trust experiments are a well-developed methodology, says Prof Keswell, incorporating aspects of economics, game theory and psychology.
The experiment found that among men, accent and race matters a good deal. In particular, men trust each other more if they are the same race and Player B speaks with a mother-tongue English accent.
Women, however, are not responsive to differences in accent.
While being white and sounding like a first-language English speaker go almost hand-in-hand, the same is not true of black South Africans.
On that front, the researchers found that the accent effect was particularly pronounced among black men.
The authors speculate that the accent effect is part of a “systematic pattern of high-status versus low-status language legacy that still reverberates in contemporary SA”.