LINGUIST List 14.1383

Wed May 14 2003

Review: Dialectology: Long and Preston (2002)

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  • 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 scales.

    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.