Date of Graduation
College of Education and Human Services
Communication Sciences and Disorders
Carolyn P. Atkins.
The purpose of this investigation was to determine college students' perceptions of their own dialects and 4 specific dialects common to the English language. To determine this, the investigator developed a 3-part survey (Appendices H, I, J). On Part I, respondents completed identifying information. On Part II, they rated 9 general Likert Scale items related to dialect. On Part III, they completed the same semantic differential scale for speakers who represented 4 different dialects: Appalachian-American, Eastern-American, General-American, and African-American. There were 2 speakers for each dialect, i.e., 1 male and 1 female.;On Part I, respondents who completed a 3-part survey included 143 undergraduate students at West Virginia University; 53.1% were between the ages of 19 and 20 years old. The majority (74.8%) was female and Caucasian (96.5%). In addition, the majority (46.2%) felt they spoke with a dialect while 31.8% identified themselves as speaking with a General-American dialect.;On Part II, respondents indicated personal satisfaction with the way they speak. They also were comfortable speaking in formal and informal settings despite their dialects and did not feel others stereotyped them negatively because of their dialects.;On Part III of this investigation respondents assigned the highest mean to the General-American male (3.90); followed by the African-American female (3.86); the General-American female (3.72); the Appalachian-American female (3.55); the Eastern-American female (3.46); the Appalachian-American male (3.35); the Eastern-American male (2.91); and the African-American male (2.88). Overall means for each of the dialects reveal that respondents rated General-American dialect speakers most positively with a mean of 3.81, followed by Appalachian-American dialect speakers (3.45), African-American dialect speakers (3.37), and Eastern-American dialect speakers (3.19).;Appalachian-American speakers are perceived as approachable, mature, friendly, humble, stable, and even-tempered, with the female being more positively stereotyped than the male. Eastern-American speakers are perceived as mature, attractive, stable, and even-tempered, with the female being more positively stereotyped than the male. General-American speakers are perceived as intelligent, approachable, mature, motivated, powerful, attractive, friendly, stable, and even-tempered, with the male being more positively stereotyped than the female. African-American speakers are perceived as approachable, friendly, and even-tempered, with the female being more positively stereotyped than the male.;The findings suggest individuals do indeed stereotype others, whether positively or negatively, based on the way in which others speak. For the most part, the stereotypes identified in this study supported the findings identified in a review of the literature. The results of this investigation also supported Robinson's (1996) research findings in which speakers of Non-General-American English were thought to be less educated than speakers of General-American English. This study also was in agreement with Mulac (1976) who found that different stereotypes are associated with different dialects.;Overall, female speakers are perceived as approachable, mature, motivated, powerful, attractive, friendly, stable, and even-tempered, with the General-American dialect being most positively stereotyped. Male speakers are perceived as even-tempered, with the General-American dialect being most positively stereotyped.
Smitley, Leigh, "College students' perceptions of dialects" (2007). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 2540.