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Corpora 6 1 : Because it focuses on nonlinguists' views of linguistic concepts, perceptual dialectology is considered a subset of the study of folk linguistics , as well as part of the general field of sociolinguistics.
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Common topics in the study of perceptual dialectology include the comparison of folk perceptions of dialect boundaries with traditional linguistic definitions, the examination of what factors influence folk perceptions of variation, and what social characteristics individuals attribute to various dialects. Linguists disagree on whether the beginnings of perceptual dialectology can be traced to the s in Japan  or the Netherlands in the s.
A pioneering study in traditional perceptual dialectology took place in the Netherlands in and was conducted by W. The study sought to investigate perceptual dialect boundaries through a Dutch dialect survey in which subjects were asked to state whether they thought other people spoke the same or different dialect as them, and what the dialect difference was if there was deemed to be any.
Many studies proceeded from this, and perceptual dialectology surveys took place in various countries.
Perceptual dialectology studies in Japan were also taking place during the early 20th century. Japanese methodology was fundamentally different from the Netherlands' in that informants were asked to judge differences between dialects on degrees of difference for example, from 'not different' to 'incomprehensible'. Data was thus analyzed by drawing lines between areas to indicate a scale of difference,  and was the first method in 'calculating' perceptual boundaries. Linguists became increasingly interested in how non-linguists distinguish between language varieties, including the fact that pitch accent is one of the major ways that non-linguists distinguish between varieties.
Contemporary perceptual dialectology was spearheaded by Dennis Preston, who is seen to be the major proponent of perceptual dialectology. His five-point approach to the study has been a benchmark for the advancement of the field. Language attitude studies and its related matched-guise methodology are also seen to be related to perceptual dialectology.
The little arrow method is an early method for comparing regional dialects. In the little arrows method, researchers begin with a general map of a region, often with traditional linguistic dialect boundaries indicated for reference. Sites which participants indicate as being extremely similar are connected by a "little arrow. From this information, information on perceptual dialectical boundaries can be drawn.
Perceptual dialect categories consist of areas linked together by the "little arrows," and dialect borders are indicated when there are no connections between sites. The Preston five-point method is a set of techniques developed by Preston for the study of perceptual dialectology in the s. The specific measures composing the five-point method include:. One of the areas of perceptual dialectology is discerning linguistic and folk judgments. Subjects were asked to identify the regional origin of a speaker after listening to a voice samples.
The Pays de la Loire respondents from Nancy and Rennes , respectively the northeastern and northwestern regions were not especially successful at correctly identifying the regional origins of the voice samples, but were able to detect some differences between the Nancy and Rennes speakers. The usage of authentic speech samples for identification reveals how well subjects are able to actually perceive the differences between dialects according to their own folk beliefs. People generally regard their own dialect as distinct from other quite similar ones.
A study of Bostonians reflected this tendency. When 50 Bostonians were asked to draw perceived dialect boundaries and rate degrees of pleasantness and correctness to examine similarities and differences, they varied significantly, reflecting the difficulty of establishing distinct dialect boundaries when mapping isoglosses. Perceptual dialectology also concerns itself with social dialects as well as regional dialects. Social dialects are those associated with certain social classes or groups, rather than with a region.
An example of this is African American Vernacular English , to which is attributed lower education , ignorance , and laziness. In one study, white college males were asked to imitate black male speech and vice versa. The findings concluded that white college males immediately understood what the researcher meant when he asked the white male subjects to "talk like a black man.
Some of the roles the white male subjects portrayed included a basketball player, a hip, cool person, and a street person. The topics included dancing , violence , and slavery. Yet, the white males had an extremely limited number of morphological and syntactic devices and a small comically exaggerated lexicon including ethnically stereotyped lexemes. Slang can also be influential for non-linguists in determining where dialect boundaries are. Many of the labels in a dialect mapping task focused on slang terms when studying perceptual dialectology of English spoken in California. University of California, Santa Barbara students were asked to label a map of California according to subjects, particularly Southern Californians, used " hella " to identify the Northern California region.
Ratings of pleasantness and correctness of dialects vary between speakers of different dialects.
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Speakers with the Southern accent from Memphis, Tennessee , rated other Southern regions as less correct than other regions, but no less pleasant. Speakers from Memphis were also much more aware of distinctions among dialects within the South, but were not aware of differences in other regions such as the West , lumping it as one largely "correct" area. When English speakers from Reno, Nevada rated Southern English, they rated it as less correct and pleasant and most different from their own speech.
Historical perceptual dialectology allows linguists to examine how and why dialects in the past gained popularity.