Cognitive patterns of linguistic perceptions
Tamasi, Susan Louise
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This research explores the attitudes and perceptions that nonlinguists have about variation in language and analyzes how this knowledge is cognitively organized. I created an innovative, inter-disciplinary methodology to reveal folk perceptions, such as the types and number of American dialects and the social traits (i.e. issues of status and solidarity) that are associated with speech. I then placed this information within a cognitive framework in order to explore the ways in which people understand and utilize linguistic variation. Sixty informants from two di erent locations (North Georgia and Central New Jersey) participated in a series of tasks developed to elicit their perceptions toward variation in American English. Participants were given a set of index cards with state names written on them and were asked to divide them into piles according to where people speak di erently from one another. Participants were then given a stack of cards which listed social traits (e.g. intelligent, trustworthy, pleasant) and linguistic traits (e.g. nasal) and were asked to describe the speech of the dialect communities they created in the rst task. Next, participants listened to four voice samples from four di erent locations around the U. S. (Georgia, New Jersey, Illinois, and Missouri) and were asked to use the cards from the rst two tasks to describe the speech samples geographically, socially, and linguistically. Finally, participants were asked a short series of questions to clarify, con rm, and develop their earlier responses. Using qualitative and quantitative data, I show that people categorize their knowledge of language in patterned, culturally-determined ways and that the conceptual organization of language reveals a complex, interrelated network of social, regional, and personal information.