"Frozen" in Time: Dialect and Language Ideology in Disney Films

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2021
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Tri-College (Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and Swarthmore Colleges). Department of Linguistics
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Thesis
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eng
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Open Access
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This thesis investigates the appearance of linguistic ideologies and stereotypes in four recent Disney films (Frozen 2013, Moana 2016,Coco 2017, and The Lion King 2019) as they compare to those studied in older animated films in the Disney canon. Utilizing a research framework based on previous work by Lippi Green (2012), as well as more recent work by Azad (2009), Sønnesyn (2011),Ellis (2012), and Soares (2017), I analyze the patterns and trends in these films, observing how different dialects and languages are used and which characters are speaking them. First analyzing the data collected according to the original studies' methods, I then execute a broader, more nuanced analysis as I question the applicability of the original methods to the current study. Additionally, I consider the recent increase in discussion of media representation of minority racial and ethnic groups to contextualize the meaning and importance of linguistic representation and the harms of linguistic discrimination, especially considering Disney's young andimpressionable audiences. Collecting data from the above four films including film settings, characters' dialects and/or languages spoken, and characters' motivation, I conclude that though Disney has made positive strides in their representation of marginalized dialects and languages, there is much work to be done to undo the damage of their past films and to be more inclusive in their future films. I conclude additionally that their current films are more similar than different to older ones when considering how dialect, language, and culture are used and tokenized, and that this reality is largely rooted not only in the company's history but its primary interests in profit as a corporation.
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