Logotip de la revista Noves SL





Teoria i metodologia

The Matched Guise Technique: a Classic Test for Formal Measurement of Language Attitudes, by Marina Solís Obiols


This experimental methodology has received a series of criticisms which, in many cases, have been used to revise and make better use of the technique.

One of the methodological debates regarding the study of language attitudes is based on the use of direct and indirect methodology (Cooper & Fishman, 1974); the most representative example of the direct type of methodology is the use of questionnaires; for indirect types, a clear example might be the matched guise technique.

Indirect techniques such as the matched guise test permit a higher degree of introspection and ‘privacy’ for the person interviewed (Lambert, 1967), producing more ‘spontaneous’ and sincere responses. Direct questionnaires, on the other hand, introduce aspects with negative methodological connotations, such as: i) possible ambiguity in the formulation of direct and indirect questions; this can increase if terms such as ‘language’ and ‘dialect’ are used, the latter traditionally having negative undertones; ii) the limitations of writing for answering this type of questionnaire, in comparison with the fluency and attention to detail permitted by spoken language.

However, the type of question used in direct and ‘open’ questionnaires also invites interviewees to freely express their attitudes towards the object in question (Agheyisi & Fishman, 1970). Generally speaking, though, the use of questionnaires, whether ‘open’ or ‘closed’ (‘closed’ questionnaires can be answered using ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or by choosing one of a series of ‘scaled’ answers) may be distortive because each question that is asked can be interpreted in different ways since it does not form part of a communicative context (Bierbach, 1988).

In our opinion, however, what makes indirect methodology more preferable, is that the use of questionnaires (direct methodology), particularly those that offer written responses to ‘open’ questions, involves choosing or deciding rationally. To avoid this distortion, more indirect methods have been sought, bearing in mind the affective component of language attitudes which are very often irrational and involve many prejudices (Bierbach, 1988).

Therefore, the use of indirect methodologies, such as the matched guise technique, aims to counterbalance the possible deficiencies of the methodological application of questionnaires, or direct methodology. (8)

4. The matched guise technique

As stated earlier, this technique involves asking interviewees to evaluate the personal qualities of speakers whose voices are recorded on tape, whereby the same speaker uses different linguistic varieties. Thus, the interviewees evaluate the personal qualities of the individuals recorded – without knowing that it is the same person – according to the linguistic variety used, and in line with the stereotypes and social prejudices of these linguistic varieties, which tend to be uniform. In order to explain the technique a little more, we will briefly run through the most relevant components before dealing with the methodological aspects that could be revised:

i) the variables of ‘sex’; ‘age’; ‘L1’, ‘variety used in domestic relationships’, etc. of the ‘judges’ evaluating the recorded ‘voices’ are taken into consideration;

ii) the variables of ‘sex’, ‘age’, ‘voice’ and ‘linguistic variety’ of the individuals recorded are taken into consideration.

iii) the stimulus material spoken in the linguistic variety that is recorded is studied from a strictly linguistic approach (phonetic, morphological, syntactic and lexical aspects) and from a stylistic point of view (formal, informal register...).

iv) the interviewees have no information about the ‘voices’; that is, they do not know that the ‘voices’ speaking at least two different linguistic varieties are the same person and that these are guises; this is where the technique gets its name: matched guise.

v) there is total control over the variable ‘voice’, with the removal of all features of speed, volume, timbre, tone, etc. Nonetheless, the importance of this technique lies in manipulating the linguistic features of the oral stimulus material, rather than in manipulating the recorded voices.

vi) the length of the oral stimulus material recording is two minutes;

vii) the ‘judges’ or interviewees are asked to evaluate the personal qualities of the recorded individuals on the basis of their ‘voices’, as if they were evaluating the ‘voice’ of somebody they did not know during a telephone conversation.

viii) a questionnaire allows the personality traits of the ‘voices’ evaluated to be attributed to the ‘voices’ (intelligence; leadership; physical attractiveness; social status, unpleasantness...).


2 de 5