LINGUIST List 14.1383

Wed May 14 2003

Review: Dialectology: Long and Preston (2002)

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  1. Glenn Mart�nez, Handbook of Perceptual Dialectology, Vol. 2

Message 1: Handbook of Perceptual Dialectology, Vol. 2

Date: Wed, 14 May 2003 21:49:46 +0000
From: Glenn Mart�nez <>
Subject: Handbook of Perceptual Dialectology, Vol. 2

Long, Daniel and Dennis Preston, ed. (2002) Handbook of Perceptual
Dialectology, Volume 2, John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Announced at

Glenn A. Mart�nez, The University of Arizona


This second volume of the Handbook of Perceptual Dialectology
represents a steady progression in the resurgence of folk linguistics
over the past fifteen years. The first volume of the Handbook of
Perceptual Dialectology (Preston 1999) consisted mainly of works that
predate Preston (1989). The second volume presents mostly contemporary
works that mark new directions in the field. The wide array of novel
methodologies, analyses, and contexts in the volume attests to the
creativity and insight of the authors and the editors. It is clear
that these innovations contribute to greater conceptual and
theoretical solidification in the field. In my chapter by chapter
discussion, therefore, I will focus my attention on highlighting these
innovative contributions.


In Chapter 1, ''Miami Cuban Perceptions of Varieties of Spanish,''
Gabriela Alfaraz explores the effects of politics and exile on dialect
perceptions. Her study reveals that pre-Castro Cuban Spanish is
highly regarded among the Miami Cuban community and that post-Castro
Cuban Spanish is perceived as rather ugly sounding. The relationship
between social change and perceptual change is quite apparent in this
informative and insightful piece.

In Chapter 2, ''Aesthetic Evaluation of Dutch,'' Rene� van Bezooijen
sheds light on the controversial claim that some language varieties
have sounds that are intrinsically pleasant to listen to. While most
contemporary linguists would reject this claim as sheer gibberish
given the inherently social construction of dialect perceptions, van
Bezooijen shows that in fact some sounds do appear to be more pleasant
than others. In the study of Dutch speakers, it was reported that most
speakers preferred to listen to languages that displayed a particular
combination of melodiousness and softness. Surprisingly, these
acoustic features are noticeably absent in the native Dutch dialects
of the judges, thus the article also challenges the notion that one's
own dialect is always judged to be the best.

In Chapter 3, ''Perceptions of Languages in the Mandingo Region of
Mali,'' C�cile Canut pushes the envelope in the field by focusing her
attention on meta-linguistic discourse instead of on hand-drawn maps
or questionnaires. The focus on discourse allows for a rich
description of flexibility in the perception of dialect. In fact, the
methodology allows one to see how dialect perceptions are rooted in
positional relationships. This concept is best summed up by one of
Canut's own informants who states: ''When I'm in Paris, I'm a Mali,
when I'm in Bamako, I'm Peule, and when I'm in my own village, I'm a
Guimbala Peule (female Peule)'' (39).

In Chapter 4, ''Gender Differences in the Perception of Turkish
Regional Dialects,'' Mahide Demirci sets out to show how the construct
of gender shapes dialect perceptions in Turkey. Her analysis revealed
that women tend to perceive less difference in the region identifying
only five dialect areas, and that men tend to perceive more difference
identifying fourteen dialect areas over the same geographic space.

Chapter 5, ''Mental Maps'' by Willy Diercks, is unusual in the
collection because it is a more historical piece written in the late
1980s. However, its contribution to the new directions in the field
are extremely important inasmuch as they focus on the concept of
perceptual space and identify the multiple ways in which speakers
interact with their surroundings in a given linguistic area. His
findings particularly point out that the marking of one's own dialect
is achieved primarily through reactions to the foreignness of others.

In Chapter 6, ''Attitudes of Montreal Students Towards Varieties of
French,'' Betsy Evans shows how views of French in Canada have changed
dramatically over the past generation. In fact, her study demonstrates
that while a generation ago, French Canadians revealed extreme
insecurities in comparison with Continental French, today the
situation has changed entirely. In fact, her data show that young
Canadians view their own variety of French as more pleasant and just
as correct as Continental French.

In Chapter 7, ''An Acoustic and Perceptual Analysis of Imitation,''
Betsy Evans considers a novel aspect of dialect perceptions: the
ability to distinguish authentic and counterfeit dialect speech. This
study displays that far from the traditional notion that true dialect
speech can never be fully imitated, dialect imitations can be quite
convincing both to native judges and to trained linguists. Evans has
clearly shown that dialect imitation is an area of perceptual that
needs to be explored further.

In Chapter 8, ''California Students' Perceptions of, You Know, Regions
and Dialects?'' Carmen Fought turns the table on normal practice in
U.S. perceptual dialectology. While most studies in the field single
out perceptions of California English, no study to date has
investigated Californian's perceptions of themselves. Using the well
known technique of hand drawn maps, Fought shows a peculiar pattern
emerging among Californians. While no one identified California
English as ''proper'' (this label was reserved for New England), most
of the respondents did view it as ''good''. Even though most
informants viewed California English positively, somewhat negative
descriptions like ''slang'' were also associated with the dialect.
Fought suggest that Californian's perceptions of their own English can
be summed up as: It's like, whatever.

In Chapter 9, ''Perception of Dialect Distance,'' Ton Goeman
challenges the traditional notion of internal and system related
phonetic change in light of specific changes in Dutch. Goeman argues
that individual phonetic changes are driven more directly by
perceptions of ''own'' and ''foreign'' among speakers. He studies
three phonetic changes - t-deletion, vowel shortening, and vowel
lengthening - and finds that while most linguists assume an internal
interaction between the three, the most salient interaction has to do
with perception and not with production.

In Chapter 10, ''A Dialect with 'Great Inner Strength'?'' by Paul
Kerswill, the problematic but foundational notion of the speech
community is reconsidered in light of perceptual dialectology. He
concludes that specific linguistic features are salient markers of
speakers' perception of community, that judgements of 'nativeness' are
relative, not absolute, and that integration into a speech community
through the acquisition of native-like competence can occur well after
the 'critical period for language acquisition.'

In Chapter 11, ''Dialect Recognition and Speech Community Focusing in
New and Old Towns in England,'' Paul Kerswill and Ann Williams make a
number of important claims. Among them, they note that there is not a
direct correlation between dialect perception and speech community
focusing. They find that rapid linguistic change leads to a
discontinuity in the speech community. In fact, they report that as a
consequence of rapid social change, perceptual dislocation can occur
wherein a previously integrated dialect becomes perceptually displaced
by new generations of speakers.

In Chapter 12, ''Where is the 'Most Beautiful' and the 'Ugliest'
Hungarian Spoken?'' Mikl�s Kontra also takes up the question of
perceptual change. Comparing previous perceptual studies in Hungary,
Kontra shows that earlier studies identified Budapest Hungarian as
invariably the ugliest dialect. However, the data presented in the
study suggest a change in which the Budapest dialect is being
re-evaluated as the most beautiful dialect. The identification and
documentation of the social, political, and historical correlates of
such changes are central to a more complete and balanced view of
perceptual change.

In Chapter 13, ''Microcosmic Perceptual Dialectology and the
Consequences of Extended Linguistic Awareness,'' Jean L�onard
examines dialect perceptions on the French-speaking island of
Noirmourtier. One important contribution of this study is the use of
conversational data in exploring language attitudes. As L�onard
notes, the richness of dialect perceptions is seldom captured in mass
surveys and questionnaires. L�onard ends his article by suggesting
that perceptual dialectologists begin to attend to the underlying
logic of metalinguistic statements and thus to nurture
content-analysis folk linguistics.

In Chapter 14, ''Regional Differences in the Perception of Korean
Dialects,'' Daniel Long and Young-Cheol Yim present an extremely
interesting analysis of dialect perceptions within a politically
fractured homeland. The Korean data demonstrated at least four
important trends. First, Korean respondents overwhelmingly identified
single-province dialect regions. Second, Korean respondents were
particularly sensitive to the North-South political boundary. In fact,
many respondents made no statements whatsoever about the North, a fact
of importance in and of itself according to the authors. Third,
''standard'' dialects appeared to be dislocated from any specific
geographic space even though Seoul speech was consistently as the most
pleasant variety.

Chapter 15, ''A Perceptual Dialectology of Anglophone Canada'' by
Meghan McKinnie and Jennifer Dailey-O'Cain, reports dialect
perceptions of Canadians from Alberta and Ontario. Using a dual-factor
scale of pleasantness and correctness measures, the authors discover
that perceptions of dialect in Canada are intimately tied to the sites
of political and economic control within the nation. For instance,
they found that the economically strong provinces of Alberta, Ontario
and British Columbia were viewed as most pleasant and correct and that
the poorer provinces such as Manitoba, Saskatchewan, the Yukon
Territory, and the Atlantic provinces scored much lower on both

In Chapter 16, ''Madrid Perceptions of Regional Varieties in Spain,''
Juliana Moreno Fern�ndez and Francisco Moreno Fern�ndez offer an
insightful analysis of dialect perceptions in a linguistically
heterogeneous national space. The history of multilingualism in Spain
and the ethnolinguistic oppression present on the Peninsula for a good
part of the past century make this study extremely interesting to the
field. The results of the study indicated two prototypical attitudes
among madrile�os: some respondents reveal greater sensitivities
toward the diversity of languages while others reveal greater
sensitivity toward Spanish dialect differences.

In Chapter 17, ''Attitudes Toward Midwestern American English,'' Nancy
Niedzielski sets out to determine how it is that speakers who use
grossly non-standard features still perceive their variety as
standard. Her argument hinges on Social Constructivist Theory which
postulates that dialect perceptions have no direct correspondence to
reality but instead are mediated and constructed through social
interaction. She concludes that in order for non-standard dialect
speakers to remain convinced of their identity as standard dialect
speakers, ''they would need to have this identity confirmed through
most of their social interactions'' (327). This type of social
construction and ratification is precisely what she finds in her
analysis of Detroit English speakers and their explicit identification
as speakers of Standard American English.

In Chapter 18, ''The Perception of Urban Varieties,'' Maria Teresa
Romanello conducts an exemplary study of urban perceptual dialectology
in Italy. In this work, she challenges the notion that perceived
dialect areas must cover entire regions and proposes instead that
cities themselves are mentally mapped in dialect zones. This is an
extremely important hypothesis which may have serious repercussions in
the study of language variation in urban environments.

In Chapter 19, ''A Perceptual Dialect Study of French in
Switzerland,'' Caroline L'Eplattenier-Saugy investigates dialect
perceptions and linguistic insecurity in francophone Switzerland. In
studying the perceptions of a linguistic minority, L'Eplattenier-Saugy
uncovers two opposing beliefs that appear to co-exist and that testify
to the in-betweeness of the minority group. Respondents tended to
agree that there is one ''correct'' way of speaking French. At the
same time, however, they also appeared to agree that there is no good
or bad way of speaking French. The author argues that the coexistence
of the two beliefs attests to ''both the consciousness that their way
of speaking is different and non-standard and to the desire to keep
their variety for the sake of the preservation of their separate
cultural identity'' (364).

In Chapter 20, ''Influence of Vowel Devoicing on Dialect Judgements by
Japanese Speakers,'' Midori Yonezawa sets out to determine whether
vowel devoicing in Japanese is significant in determining whether or
not a speaker is from Tokyo. Using a sophisticated series of tests
that include a wide variety of phonetic contexts, the author
convincingly argues that speakers of the Tokyo dialect perceive this
phonetic feature and that they use it as a perceptual cue in order to
make judgements about whether or not a speaker is from Tokyo.


This second volume of the Handbook is a welcome addition to the
literature on folk linguistics. Its most laudable characteristic is
the plethora of practical and theoretical innovations that it inserts
into this burgeoning field of linguistic inquiry. The novelty of the
works included in the volume cover everything from methods to analyses
to theoretical reflections. These innovations considerably enrich the
field. New methods focusing on content-analysis and metalinguistic
discourse, for example, allow for the incorporation of discourse
analysis principles in the field. New analyses including the study of
imitation and dialect judgements open the field to the most recent
advances in acoustic phonetics. New contexts including the
investigation of communities in exile, ethnolinguistic minorities, and
fractured political spaces forcefully injects sophisticated social
theory into the field. Each and every one of the studies in the volume
exponentially multiplies the possibilities of the field of perceptual
dialectology. It is my hope that researchers will agree with this
assessment, and that they will coordinate efforts in order to
establish a professional organization and a periodical publication
dedicated exclusively to this most exciting field of linguistics.


Preston, Dennis R. ed. 1999. Handbook of Perceptual Dialectology,
Vol. 1). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Preston, Dennis R. 1989. Perceptual Dialectology. Dordrecht: Foris.


Glenn Mart�nez is Assistant Professor of Spanish Linguistics at the
University of Arizona. His research interests are in Southwest
Spanish, Heritage Language Pedagogy, Sociolinguistics and Dialectology
with particular emphasis on the U.S.-Mexico border region. He is
currently investigating perceptions of dialect among Chicanos and
Fronterizos in the Arizona-Sonora and Texas-Tamaulipas border regions.
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