Linguistic Insecurity

Linguistic insecurity refers to feelings of anxiety, self-consciousness, or lack of confidence in the mind of a speaker surrounding the use of their own language. Often, this anxiety comes from a speaker’s belief that his/her use of language does not conform to the perceived standard and/or the style of language expected by the speaker’s interlocutor(s). Linguistic insecurity is situationally induced and is often a matter of the feeling of inadequacy regarding personal performance in certain contexts, rather than a fixed attribute of an individual. This insecurity can lead to stylistic, and phonetic shifts away from an affected speaker's default speech variety; these shifts may be performed consciously on the part of the speaker, or may be reflective of an unconscious effort to conform to a more prestigious or context-appropriate style of speech. Linguistic insecurity is linked to the perception of speech styles in any community, and so may vary based on socioeconomic class and gender. It is also especially pertinent in multilingual societies.

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