Perceptions of dialects: Changing attitudes and ideologies

Chris Montgomery

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of English

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199922765
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

 Perceptions of dialects: Changing attitudes and ideologies

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  • Linguistics
  • Sociolinguistics
  • Historical and Diachronic Linguistics


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In traditional dialectology, linguistic variation is studied in relation to geographical space. Researchers first gather evidence of linguistic forms “in the wild”, before plotting the distribution of those forms on maps. This article describes a different approach to the study of variation, that of perceptual dialectology. Whereas dialectology focuses on the distribution of actual linguistic forms, perceptual dialectology looks at speakers’ beliefs about language. Specifically, it addresses the similarities or differences between the speaker’s own speech and that of other areas; examines the other dialect areas and where they are located; describes the characteristics of these dialects; and identifies the value-judgments that speakers make about their own dialects and those of others. Perceptions of language can be investigated in three different ways: either through “societal treatment”, “direct” approach, or “indirect” approach. This article examines attitudes and ideologies in the development of the English language, focusing on the Early Modern English period and the contemporary period.

Keywords: dialects; perceptual dialectology; perceptions; attitudes; ideologies; speakers; social treatment; Early Modern English; English; direct approach; socio-cultural processes; linguistics

Article.  5052 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Sociolinguistics ; Historical and Diachronic Linguistics

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