The sexiest accent in the world: Linguistic insecurity and prejudice in media coverage of the New Zealand accent

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Linguistic Society of New Zealand
©Te Reo – The Journal of the Linguistic Society of New Zealand
In 2019, New Zealanders collectively blushed at the news that an online survey had voted the New Zealand accent the sexiest in the world. Taking a critical metalinguistic perspective, this article examines how the New Zealand accent was represented in media coverage of the survey results. Examining written and televised news items reporting on the survey, we attend to explicit discourse, in the form of direct discussion about the accent, as well as implicit discourse, in the form of images and accent performances. The survey purported to reveal how the world sees the New Zealand accent, but the media coverage more strongly reveals how New Zealanders see themselves. Behind the apparently light-hearted joking about the sexiness or otherwise of the New Zealand accent, the results provide continued evidence of linguistic insecurity, alongside prejudice towards stigmatised social variation in accent. A survey investigating how 52 university students reacted to stylised New Zealand accents in the media coverage suggests that supposedly humorous accent performances are not so funny for those who are the subject of the joke.
Linguistic Discrimination, New Zealand English
Te Reo, 2021, 64 (1), pp. 15 - 32 (17)