Mark Liberman of Language Log has a very suggestive entry about the disfluency of the Wolof elite, as described in Judith Irvine’s “Wolof Noun Classification: The Social Setting of Divergent Change” (Language in Society, 7: 37-64 (1978)), at least as he remembers it:
…upwardly mobile men among the Wolof nobility cultivate inarticulateness as a sign of status. They make morphological errors—for example simplifying the Wolof system of noun-class indicators by moving nouns into the default category, as a child or a beginning adult learner might do—and they may even develop a speech impediment. If I remember right, men who rise in traditional Wolof society show these changes over the period of their life from youth to middle age, while less successful members of their cohort stay as glib and morphologically correct as ever.
He correlates this with the famed verbal skills of the griot class, “who are the lineage genealogists, musicians, and general carriers of gossip” and “serve as spokesmen for important members of the high-status group.”
So one of the symbols of high status is hiring someone to speak on your behalf; and skill in speaking comes to have low status, rather like skill in typing once had, back when it was something that only secretaries and journalists did.
A fascinating concept, and it may explain why American politicians seem to make a point of mispronouncing foreign names. They’re above all that.