Sociolinguistic Studies, Vol 9, No 4 (2015)

“The obligation of newspeople is not only to give the news accurately; it is also to say it correctly”: Production and perception of broadcaster speech

Christopher Strelluf
Issued Date: 30 Nov 2015


This research explores the popular belief among Americans that broadcasters speak a ‘correct’ version of American English. Six broadcast journalism students and six non journalism students recorded news stories as if they were ‘on radio or television’. Their readings are examined auditorily for intervocalic-/t/ flapping, coronal stop deletion, variable (ng), and allegro gonna-wanna. Samples of speech from interviews with the students are also examined for comparison between tasks. Results show that students being trained as broadcasters do not meet the popular expectation for producing prescriptively standard speech, suggesting that these sociolinguistic variables operate consistently across speakers and refuting folk perceptions about broadcaster speech. News readings are also ranked and commented on by listeners for perceived professionalism. Respondents are generally able to differentiate trained broadcasters from other speakers. Rankings do not reward prescriptivist productions. Respondents are also less consistent in ranking African American speakers for professionalism than they are white speakers.

Download Media

PDF (Price: £17.50 )

DOI: 10.1558/sols.v9i4.27039


Alim, H. S. and Smitherman, G. (2012) Articulate while Black: Barack Obama, language, and race in the U.S. New York: Oxford.

Baugh, J. (2003) Linguistic profiling. In C. Makoni, G. Smitherman, A. F. Ball and A. K. Spears (eds) Black linguistics: Language, society, and politics in Africa and the Americas 155–168. New York: Routledge.

Bell, A. (1982) Radio: The style of news language. Journal of Communication 32(1): 150– 164. Doi:

Bell, A. (1984) Language style as audience design. Language and Society 13(2): 145–204. Doi:

Bell, A. (1991) The language of news media. Oxford, UK: Blackwell.

Bender, J. F. (ed.). (1951) NBC Handbook of pronunciation (2nd ed.). New York: Crowell.

Borrego, M. C., Gasparini, G. and Behlau, M. (2007) The effects of a specific speech and language training program on students of a radio announcing course. Journal of Voice 21(4): 426–432. Doi:

Brunel, G. (1970) Le français radiophonique à Montréal. Unpublished MA dissertation. Montreal: University of Montreal.

Bucholtz, M. (1996) Geek the girl: Language, femininity and female nerds. In N. Warner, J. Ahlers, L. Bilmes, M. Oliver, S. Wertheim and M. Chen (eds) Gender and belief systems: Proceedings of the Fourth Berkeley Women and Language Conference 119–131. Berkeley: Berkeley Women and Language Group.

Chambers, J. K. (2009[1995]) Sociolinguistic theory. Oxford: Blackwell. Combs, J. (1931) The radio and pronunciation. American Speech 7(2): 124–129. Doi:

Donahue, T. S. (1993) On Inland Northern and the factors for dialect spread and shift. In T. C. Frazer (ed.) ‘Heartland’ English: Variation and transition in the American Midwest 23–47. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press.

Eckert, P. (2005) Variation, convention, and social meaning. Paper presented at Linguistic Society of America, Oakland, CA.

Ehrlich, E. and Hand, R, Jr. (eds) (1991[1984]) NBC Handbook of pronunciation. New York: Harper Perennial.

Fischer, J. L. (1958) Social influences on the choice of linguistic variant. Word 14: 47–56.

Guy, G. R. (1980) Variation in the group and the individual: The case of final stop deletion. In W. Labov (ed.) Locating Language in Time and Space 1–36. New York: Academic Press.

Hickey, R. (ed.) (2015) Standards of English: Codified varieties around the world. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Doi:

Jimirro, J. P. (1968–1969) The establishment of standard pronunciations for broadcast news. Journal of Broadcasting 13(1): 63–68. Doi:

Johnson, D. E. (2008) Rbrul [Computer program]. Version 1.9, retrieved June 2012.

Johnson, D. E. (2009) Getting off the GoldVarb standard: Introducing Rbrul for mixedeffects variable rule analysis. Language and Linguistic Compass 3(1): 359–383. Doi:

Kristiansen, T. (2001) Two standards: One for the media and one for the school. Language Awareness 10(1): 9–24. Doi:

Labov, W. (2006[1966]) The social stratification of English in New York City. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Labov, W. (1972) Language in the inner city: Studies in the Black English Vernacular. Philadelphia : University of Pennsylvania Press.

Labov, W., Ash, S., Rabindranath, M., Weldon, T., Baranowski, M. and Nagy, N. (2011) Properties of the sociolingustic monitor. Journal of Sociolinguistics 15(4): 431 463. Doi:

Lippi-Green, R. (1997) English with an accent. London: Routledge.

Lipski, J. M. (1985) Spanish in United States broadcasting. In L. Elías-Olivares (ed.)
Spanish language use and public life in the United States 217–233. Berlin: Mouton de
Gruyter. Doi:

Neil, E., Worrall, L., Day, A. and Hickson, L. (2003) Voice and speech characteristics and vocal hygiene in novice and professional broadcast journalists. Advances in Speech-Language Pathology 5(1): 1–14. Doi:

Niedzielski, N. and Preston, D. R. (2000) Folk linguistics. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. Doi:

Preston, D. R. (1985) The Li’l Abner syndrome: Written representations of speech. American Speech 60(4): 328–337. Doi:

Preston, D. R. (1989) Perceptual dialectology: Nonlinguists’ views of Areal linguistics. Dordrecht, Holland: Foris. Doi:

R Core Team. (2014) R: A language and environment for statistical computing [Computer program]. Version 3.1.1, retrieved August 2014. R Vienna: Foundation for Statistical Computing.

Reed, A. (2003) Simple Concordance Program [Computer program]. Version 4.0.7, retrieved May 2012.

Rickford, J. R. and Rickford, R. J. (2000) Spoken soul: The story of Black English. New York: John Wiley.

Sankoff, D., Tagliamonte, S. A. and Smith, E. (2005) Goldvarb X: A Variable Rule Application for Macintosh and Windows [Computer program]. Retrieved November 2014. Toronto: University of Toronto Department of Linguistics.

Tagliamonte, S. (2006) Analysing sociolinguistic variation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Doi:

Trudgill, P. (1974) The social differentiation of English in Norwich. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wolfram, W. (1969) A sociolinguistic description of Detroit Negro speech. Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics.

Wolfram, W. and Fasold, R. (1974) The study of social dialects in American English. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Equinox Publishing Ltd - 415 The Workstation 15 Paternoster Row, Sheffield, S1 2BX United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)114 221-0285 - Email:

Privacy Policy