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AN ANALYSIS OF ACCENTEDNESS IN SPEECH AND

EMPLOYABILITY OF MALAY ENGLISH SPEAKING


UNDERGRADUATES AT IIUM



BY



ANAZTASIA NATASHA



A dissertation submitted in fulfilment of the requirement for
the degree of Master of Human Sciences in English
Language Studies


Kulliyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and
Human Sciences
International Islamic University Malaysia


DECEMBER 2013

















In the name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.

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ABSTRACT
This study investigates employers attitudes of English-speaking Malay graduates
accented speech to see if they can be considered for employment. Besides, the study
seeks to identify the relationship between the different degrees of Malay accented
English and how they can affect these graduates chance in getting a job in the
Malaysian private educational sector. Thirty final semester students from various
Human Sciences undergraduate programmes were selected from three sections of
LE4500 Language for Occupational Purposes classes at the International Islamic
University Malaysia (IIUM). Their readings of a simplified text were audio-taped to
gather the different degrees of accentedness before being graded by five language
experts based on an impressionistic assessment of each sample on a seven-point scale
ranging from 7 being the most noticeable/marked Malay accent and 1 being the
least noticeable/unmarked Malay accent. Rankings for the 30 speech sample were
obtained from the five language experts but only 10 were selected to be rated for
employability and attitude by 12 representative employers from various colleges and
universities in the Malaysian private sector. The findings of this study indicate that
although accent has a vital effect on employability, there are also other important
criteria to be considered in hiring a good employee including high level of confidence,
comprehensible pronunciation and the extra effort in reading the given text clearly
















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.


.


LE4500 .

7
1 .
10
12
.



.





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APPROVAL PAGE
I certify that I have supervised and read this study and that in my opinion, it conforms
to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and
quality, as a thesis for the degree of Master of Human Sciences (English Language
Studies)



Maimunah Bt Abdul Kadir
Supervisor


I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to acceptable
standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a
thesis for the degree of Master of Human Sciences (English Language Studies)



....
Rozina Bt Abdul Ghani
Examiner


This thesis was submitted to the Department of English Language and Literature and
is accepted as a fulfilment of the requirement for the degree of Master of Human
Sciences (English Language Studies)


....
Zahariah Bt Pilus
Head, Department of
English Language and
Literature


This thesis was submitted to the Kulliyyah of Human Sciences and Islamic Revealed
Knowledge and is accepted as fulfilment of the requirement for the degree of Master
of Human Sciences (English Language Studies)



Ibrahim Mohamed Zein
Dean, Kulliyyah of Human
Sciences and Islamic
Revealed Knowledge


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DECLARATION
I hereby declare that this thesis is the result of my own investigations, except where
otherwise stated. I also declare that it has not been previously or concurrently
submitted as a whole for any other degrees at IIUM or other institutions.


Anaztasia Natasha



Signature: Date:


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INTERNATIONAL ISLAMIC UNIVERSITY MALAYSIA
DECLARATION OF COPYRIGHT AND AFFIRMATION
OF FAIR USE OF UNPUBLISHED RESEARCH
Copyright 2013 by International Islamic University Malaysia. All rights reserved.
AN ANALYSIS OF ACCENTEDNESS IN SPEECH AND
EMPLOYABILITY OF MALAY ENGLISH SPEAKING
UNDERGRADUATES AT IIUM


No part of this unpublished research may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system,
or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying,
recording or otherwise without prior written permission of the copyright holder except
as provided below.
1. Any material contained in or derived from this unpublished research may
be used by others in their writing with due acknowledgement.

2. IIUM or its library will have the right to make and transmit copies (print
or electronic) for institutional and academic purposes.

3. The IIUM library will have the right to make, store in a retrieval system
and supply copies of this unpublished research if requested by other
universities and research libraries.


Affirmed by Anaztasia Natasha





.... ..
Signature Date


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I dedicate this dissertation to my loving mom, Faridah Bt Talib.







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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
In the name of Allah (S.W.T), the Most Gracious and the Most Merciful

Alhamdulillah, Im forever grateful to Him for the strengths, wisdom, and
perseverance that He has bestowed upon me during the process of accomplishing my
Masters degree.

First and foremost, I would like to thank my supervisor, Dr Maimunah Bt
Abdul Kadir, for guiding me in the dissertation process. I owe my success to her
expert guidance, mentoring, and encouragement, from the very beginning to the very
end of the long journey. I am grateful for her generosity, constructive feedback, a
healthy dose of realism, but above all, for her invariable support along the way and
teaching me to turn every challenge into an opportunity. Thank you for everything.

My examiner, Dr Rozina Bt Abdul Ghani, who patiently provided constructive
detailed comments and countless revisions of my work. I am very indebted to her for
always making herself available to respond to my questions and queries, despite her
busy schedule.

Last but never the least, I am particularly grateful to my mum, Faridah Bt
Talib who supported me fully in any way she was able to, by listening, sending words
of encouragement and making sure that I took care of myself. I love her so much, and
will not have made it this far without her.













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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Abstract ............................................................................................................... ii
Abstract in Arabic ................................................................................................ iii
Approval page ..................................................................................................... iv
Declaration .......................................................................................................... v
Declaration of Copyright ..................................................................................... vi
Dedication ........................................................................................................... vii
Acknowledgements ............................................................................................. viii
List of Tables ....................................................................................................... xi
List of Figures ..................................................................................................... xii

CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION .............................................................. 1
1.1 Statement of the Problem .................................................................... 3
1.2 Significance of the Study .................................................................... 4
1.3 Research Objectives ........................................................................... 5
1.4 Research Questions ............................................................................ 5
1.5 Theoretical Framework ....................................................................... 6
1.6 Definition of Terms ............................................................................ 7
1.7 Conceptional Definition: Attitude and Employability ................... 10
1.8 Summary ............................................................................................ 12

CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEWS ............................................... 13
2.1 Introduction ........................................................................................ 13
2.1.1 Language Attitudes ................................................................... 14
2.1.2 Attitude Towards Speech Varieties ........................................... 14
2.1.3 Language Attitudes towards Speakers of Language Varieties .... 15
2.1.4 Status Dichotomy...................................................................... 16
2.1.5 Language Attitudes towards Employment Opportunities ........... 16
2.1.6 Studies In Attitudinal Judgements on Accented Speech ............. 21
2.2 Evaluative Reactions to Varieties of Accents ...................................... 32
2.2.1 Matched Guise Technique Used to Measure Language
Attitudes Towards Foreign Accent..................................................... 33
2.2.2 The Verbal Guise Technique .................................................. 35
2.2.3 Fossilization.............................................................................. 37
2.2.4 Summary of Chapter Two ......................................................... 38

CHAPTER THREE: METHODOLOGY ........................................................ 39
3.0 Introduction ........................................................................................ 39
3.1 Respondents ....................................................................................... 39
3.2 Data Collection Techniques ................................................................ 41
3.2.1 How the Brennan and Brennan (1981) Study is Relevant to this
Research ............................................................................................ 41
3.2.2 Other Related Study in the Method of Measuring: Cunningham-
Andersson and Engstrand (1989) ....................................................... 43
3.3 Data Collection Procedure .................................................................. 45
3.3.1 Judgement of Employability ..................................................... 49

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3.4 Data Analysis ..................................................................................... 52

CHAPTER FOUR: FINDINGS & DISCUSSION ........................................... 57
4.0 Introduction ........................................................................................ 57
4.1 Findings ............................................................................................. 57
4.2 Discussion .......................................................................................... 64

CHAPTER FIVE: CONCLUSION .................................................................. 70
5.1 Introduction ........................................................................................ 70
5.2 Pedagogical Implication ..................................................................... 71
5.3 Future Research .................................................................................. 72

BIBLIOGRAPHY .............................................................................................. 73

APPENDICES ..................................................................................................... 80




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LIST OF TABLES
Table No. Page No.

3.1 Distribution of Subjects Selected for the Study 40
3.2 Tabulated Summary of Research Questions 45
3.3 Seven-Point Scale 48
3.4 Ratings by Linguists 48
3.5 Data gathering procedures 51
3.6 The Ten Chosen Speech Samples 53
3.7 The Samples Categorized Under the three Categories of Accentedness 54
3.8 Allocation of New Numbers to the Ten Samples. 55
4.1 Summary of Students Accent Rating 58
4.2 Demographic of the Ten Students Samples & their Accent Rating 60
4.3 Employers Demographic 61
4.4 Employers Decision for Hiring Based on the Samples 62












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LIST OF FIGURES
Figure No. Page No.

2.1 Seven-point accented rating scale 18
3.1 Seven-Point Scale with Poles 42
3.2 5-Point Subjective Accentedness Scale with Poles 43
3.3 Seven-Column Scale 47



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CHAPTER ONE
INTRODUCTION
ALOR SETAR, Oct 26 (Bernama) -- The Kedah/Perlis branch
of Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) is
collaborating with Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) to
develop a programme to improve English language
proficiency among industry workers.

Its chairman, Dr Haminnuddin Abd Hamid, said the
programme would also be opened to the public, especially
school leavers and unemployed graduates, so that they
could become more employable.

He said a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the
programme had been signed between Kedah/Perlis FMM and
Kedah UiTM recently, which was also witnessed by Deputy
Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk
Mukhriz Mahathir.

Under the MoU, Kedah UiTM would develop suitable
English modules for the programme, which would be
conducted by Kedah/Perlis FMM Institute as in-house or
public training programme beginning early next year.

"Among the modules to be developed are Basic English,
Workplace English, Critical Thinking, Technical Report
Writing, Presentation Skills, Conducting Effective
Meetings and Spoken English," he said.

At present, Dr Haminnuddin said a pilot project for
the programme was being conducted for Ideal Healthcare
Sdn Bhd.

Meanwhile, in a bid to further improve the skills of
workers in the northern states, he said Kedah/Perlis FMM
had also signed a Letter of Intent for future
collaboration with Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Polytechnic in
Perlis.

"The collaboration is aimed at exploring future
inter-organisational cooperation for the exchange of
information and expertise pertaining to development,
training and skills upgrading for both employees in
industry as well as students of the Polytechnic," he
said.

-- BERNAMA (2011)

In Malaysia, English is seen as vital for the nations growth in achieving Vision 2020;
a vision thought by the former Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Dr. Mahathir bin

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Mohamad. This vision is seen as important for the future course of the nation,
including how Malaysians should go about attaining this objective of developing
Malaysia into an industrialized country (Siregar, 2010). This powerful language has a
steady foothold in the worlds business, education, and entertainment. It is possible for
one to say that English can even cause the death of a language if certain outer circles
(excolonies of the British empire) become less interested in preserving their
grandparents' language than in teaching their children a language that can help them
get better jobs with higher pay. This is based on a research about the attitude of people
(Grinevald, Colette and Bert, 2011).
Studies on listeners attitudinal judgment on speakers different degrees of
accentedness in speech have been of interest to researchers in many disciplines (Sally,
2011; Frumkin, 2007; Nair, 2005; Dixon and Mahoney, 2004; Dixon, Mahoney,
Cocks, 2002). Researchers use different direct methods (i.e. questionnaires and
interviews) and indirect methods (i.e. the matched-guise technique), in measuring
language attitudes towards bilingual speakers depending on the objectives of their
studies, based on various communal, cultural and ethno-social perspectives.
According to Lev-Ari and Keysar (2010), the speakers accent is also being
judged by the listeners across several personality traits and qualities. Other researches
(Sims, 2012; Nguyen, 2010; Hosoda and Stone, 2010; Cargile, 2000) have laid out
biased judgments of employers based on the applicants foreign accent in speaking
English, affecting interview decisions. The employers tend to favour those who use
Standard English in their speech more than the applicants with distinctly heavy accent.
We can easily understand why native speakers of English have an
unfavourable, skeptical and guarded view of other non-natives in their language
community (Cargile, Maeda, Rodriguez and Rich, 2010; Chuang, 2005) but it should

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not happen among non-native speakers themselves since English is not their first
language to begin with. For example in Malaysia, there exist the prejudicial triggers
of employers judgments against the speech style of applicants in certain jobs within
the private sector.
This is what the researcher wants to examine in the present study, the language
attitude of the non-native English language speakers in the local community in
Malaysia; looking at the issue of biased language attitude from the perspective of
socio-psychology.

1.1 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The Malay applicants should not rely solely on their academic qualifications but
concentrate also on the communication demands, sociolinguistic requirements and
goals of their English-speaking employers, if they were to secure suitable jobs in the
private sector. When International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) students
graduate from the university and start to search for employment, they often have to
attend numerous job interviews, either face-to-face or by telephone. Their verbal use
of English will be strongly evaluated, leading the applicants who have a non-native
like accent to suffer from a likelihood of being rejected in job interviews. Perhaps, one
may wonder if there is a potential for triggering biased judgements in the employers
interview process and hiring decision against prospective Malay graduates who speak
English with different degrees of accentedness. If there is discrimination, is there a
relationship between the rating of accentedness and employability that can lead to a
less preferred employability rating in the private sector?
In Malaysia, studies on job employment usually focus on ethnicity (Zuraina,
Norhasni and Abdul, 2009; Lim, 2008; Balasubramaniam, 2006; Mandla, 2006), job

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satisfaction (Safaria, Othman and Wahab, 2011; Noor, 2011; Sharifah and Bahaman,
2009; Yussof, Ismail and Sidin, 2008) and the burden of graduate unemployment that
are not related to the field of phonology. There has been no study in IIUM dedicated
to accentedness and employability; therefore, this study will investigate the
employers attitudinal judgement on the different degrees of accentedness in their
selection of fresh graduates particularly from IIUM to fill the job market.
The focus of the present study is to investigate the attitudes held by English
speaking employers within the private sector, towards the different degrees of Malay
accented English of the English-speaking Malay graduates from IIUM; it also
investigates the opportunities for employment of these graduates. The speech samples
were gathered during the first semester of 2011/2012 from representative students
from all Human Sciences departments, which were later graded by language experts
before being presented to the selected employers.
Text should begin at the left margin, i.e., the first line of the first paragraph in a
section is not indented. The body of the text must be fully justified. The line spacing
of the basic text should be set at 2.0 (double spacing). This includes line-to-line,
paragraph-to-paragraph, text-to-numbered list, sentences within numbered lists, and
subheading to text.

1.2 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The outcome of this investigation would hopefully act as an eye-opener to those who
can relate to the accentedness of speech, namely students, language instructors, as
well as planners at the Ministry of Education in terms of their practices and policies.
Thus, opening doors for them to identify the main problems in speech so as to create
remedial treatments in reducing the Malay accent in the English spoken by the

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applicants; making the teaching of English to be more efficient, applicable and
functional in accomplishing the needs of intellectual comprehensibility.
Furthermore, the findings may also serve as a key to boost the employability
rate of the graduates, in the hope that the knowledge of the employers expectations
(i.e. most preferable variety of spoken English) in hiring applicants can be
implemented in designing materials for teaching.

1.3 RESEARCH OBJECTIVES
This study has the following objectives:
To identify the range of accentedness among Malay students who study in
different disciplines in the Kulliyyah of IRKHS, IIUM.
To analyze if the different degrees of accentedness among Malay graduate
employees affect their opportunities of employability.
To examine if English speaking employees, particularly those in the field
of education, require a certain acceptable degree of accentedness in
prospective graduate employees. for teaching.

1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
Specifically, the study tries to find answers to the following questions:
1. What is the range of accentedness among Malay students from various
backgrounds of study in IIUM?
2. To what extent do varying degrees of accentedness among Malay graduate
employees affect their opportunities of employability?
3. To what extent do employers in the field of education require a certain
acceptable degree of accentedness?

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Nevertheless, this is a study that needs to be emphasized since it is crucial for
future graduates to know the expectations and attitudes of these employers if they
were to join multimillion dollar companies. It should be interesting to observe whether
the employers evaluate the English language as a whole or if they have their own
preferences on how it must be spoken.

1.5 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
The theoretical framework for this study is based on the accent prestige theory
(Fuertes, Potere, Ramirez, 2002) which suggests that listeners judge a speakers
characteristics based on his accent. The theory further claims that a speaker will be
positively evaluated if he were to speak in a standard accent, belonging to the
dominant group in society since a build-up of negativity in the listeners attitude will
be created if accents other than the standard one were to be used.
According to the accent prestige theory, people are capable in identifying the
various dialects or accents besides having the tendency to pre-judge any individual
based on their experience with accented speakers. The theory also suggests that a
person who speaks with Received Pronunciation (R.P.) dialect is attached with more
positive personal traits as compared to those who speak with a regional dialect (Giles,
1970). He further argues that the non-standard accent may invite a negative feedback
from listeners.
Past studies using this theory (Fuertes, 2000; Foon, 2001) have shown how
standard-accented speakers are more preferred than non-standard-accented speakers in
the solidarity or status dimensions, or both. Even though after knowing the reasons
behind accented speech (i.e. social class and educational background) the listeners
may hold back their judgements, yet, if they failed to reach this relevant information,

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they will continue to judge speakers accent. The speakers believe that discrimination
through identification of ethnicity by voice can lead to preconceived judgements on
the part of the listeners (Fuertes, 2000; Foon, 2001).
The accent prestige theory suggests that speakers with accents coming from
England and America, are highly rated and favoured by those who speak the majority
and the minority accents mainly due to their access to the global community for
economic development. A study conducted by Bayard (2001), carried out in Australia
was done to measure the perceptions of British-, American-, Australian-, and New
Zealand-English accented speakers. This study used Likert-scale questionnaires to
evaluate twenty two personality and demographic traits of voices, selecting them to
represent the average range of the accents. Results indicated that the subjects rated
their own native accent beneath speakers of British-English and American-English,
consistent with the accent prestige theory since England and American are both
politically powerful nations.
This theory is again proven when Rupp (2009) claims that people prefer
accents that are similar to theirs by giving higher ratings as opposed to the speakers
with foreign accents, which in a sense may be portrayed as discrimination. Hence,
leading those with accented speech to undergo an accent modification therapy due to
alienation or to feel belong in a society that uses culturally dominant accent (Ayesha,
2011).

1.6 DEFINITION OF TERMS
Categories of definitions are created to elucidate crucial terms utilized in the study,
including the differences between accent and dialect, and standard English and
received pronunciation, along with the definitions of attitude and employability.

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Speech Varieties
Malaysians speak English with different degrees of accentedness, partly due to the
speakers exposure to non-local accents through their social interactions with family,
peers and colleagues, the diversity of mass media (newspapers, TV programmes),
educational and linguistic influence and first language interference.


Standard English and Received Pronunciation (RP)
Crystal (2003: 55-56) explains Standard English as a dialect which conveys nothing
about geographical origin; adding three prominent elements to it: we may define the
Standard English of an English-speaking country as a minority variety (identified
chiefly by its vocabulary, grammar, and orthography) which carries most prestige and
is most widely understood. Those three elements explain that Standard English firstly
is known as a prestigious English variety, but not the most widely used. It is the most
intelligible English variety, and is defined based on syntactic and lexical criteria,
without reference to phonology.
The standard speech or also known as Received Pronunciation (RP) is the
British English accent historically taken from the prestige speech of the Court and
public schools that tends to be associated with the societys elites and is used as the
model to teach English for non-native speakers, even when it is neither superior nor
inferior to other accents. It should be noted that Received Pronunciation is the
British form of Standard English, but this does not apply to every part of the English-
speaking communities in the world since they have their own version of Standard
English.
To illustrate, the standard form of Malaysian English is the variety that is
approved by educated speakers of English in the Malaysian community since it is the

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variety which appears to be most befitting for the teaching and learning of English
language in educational institutions. In this respect, Pillay (2004) who came up with
the models (Malaysian Standard English vs. Manglish) of English for Malaysian
schools, emphasizes intelligibility, which is known as word level recognition.
According to him, if a person understands the words that he hears, therefore the
language or speaker is intelligible to the hearer. This statement is later made as a key
point in choosing the most suitable dialect between the two (i.e. standard Malaysian
English and Manglish) to be applied as a pedagogical model for instructional
purposes.


Dialect
Carlson and McHenry (2006) explain that a dialect is created by a geographical
barrier, which isolates a group of people from another. A dialect is of the same form in
the majority who speaks it, yet different when it comes to the usage of particular
elements, for example, the phonology, morphology, syntax, pragmatics, semantics
which can influence nevertheless. In Malaysia for instance, we own somewhat
contrasting Malay dialects like those originating from Kelantan, Negeri Sembilan,
Kedah, Penang and Terengganu, which can be identified by a special set of structures
in phonology, grammar and vocabulary, portraying linguistic differences between the
locals and outsiders; thus showing an important marker of solidarity for each speech
community. Siregar (2010) explains this concept of solidarity by illustrating it through
the Singapore Colloquial English or Singlish which is used when a Singaporean
speaks with close relations, but when he wants to communicate with superiors and
foreigners, Standard Singapore English is used.

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Accent
The term accent on the other hand is associated directly to this study, therefore is
essential for the researchs development. To define accent according to the field of
sociolinguistics is to see it as referring to speakers or speech communitys
characteristics of speech. Other definitions of accent include the following:
A manner of pronunciation different from standard speech with the
grammatical, syntactical, and lexical levels consistent with the standard
(Brennan, 1977 as cited in Nguyen, 2010: 11).

Accented language is derived from phonological characteristics
influenced by a persons native origin, native language, or social status.
The speech characteristics of this native language may overlap or carry
on into the standard English language when spoken as a secondary
language, resulting in accented English. (Carlson and McHenry,
2006:1).

The Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics (2003) defines accent as the
cumulative auditory effect of those phonological and phonetic features of a persons
pronunciation which identify where he is from, regionally or socially (p.3).


Accentedness
According to Collins Cobuild English Language Dictionary, language or speech that
is accented is spoken with a particular accent. Kashiwagi and Snyder (2010) further
explain that accentedness can be seen as the degree to which a speakers
pronunciation is perceived to contradict from the native speakers version and can be
measured impressionistically on a scale.

1.7 CONCEPTIONAL DEFINITION: ATTITUDE AND EMPLOYABILITY
In order to construct a stable framework for the current study, the meaning of
attitude, its form, classes, characteristics and distinction in dealing with

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employability will need to be verified. Elements of attitude, such as behavioural,
cognitive and affective that can be linked to employability implying a systematic
patterns of judgement, are also conferred. is used.

Language Attitude
For the purposes of this study, the term language attitudes is seen as consisting of
three parts. Edwards (1982) defines language attitudes as having cognitive, affective
and behavioural components (as cited in McBride, 2006: 6):
Language attitudes are cognitive in that they comprise and contain beliefs
about the world.
Language attitudes are affective in that they evoke feelings about an
attitude object.
Language attitudes are behavioral in that they are systematically linked to
behaviour.


Employability
Wilton (2011) quoted two definitions of employability, the first one is by Hillage
and Pollard (1998: 1):
Employability is about having the capability to gain initial
employment, maintain employment and obtain new employment if
required.

Watts (2006), on the other hand, explains employability within three concepts:
employability as employment outcome (i.e. the accomplishment of fitting
employment),
employability as a process of learning,