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Appalachian Dialects

Linguistic Attitudes Questionnaire

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(Adapted by Stephanie Humphries from William Labov, The Social Stratification of English in New York City, Center for Applied Linguistics, 1966, p. 600)

Explanation:

This questionnaire provides information on students’ conscious attitudes toward their own speech and the speech of others. As such, it is a good tool for raising awareness.

Introduction:

For classroom use, teachers should introduce the questionnaire as an effort to find out about speech in the area and how people feel about it.

Students could be asked to answer each question on their own, then discuss their answers in small groups. Each group could then report to the entire class.

1. What do you think of your own speech?

2. Have you ever tried to change your speech? What particular things have you tried to change?

3. Have you ever had a teacher correct your speech? What did he/she correct?

4. What do you think of the speech in this area?

5. When you’ve traveled or met people from other places, were you picked on?

6. Do you think people from other places like the local speech? Why?

7. Is there any particular type of speech you like? Don’t like?

Application:

Depending on the ages of the students and the degree to which the teacher wants to examine dialect, the discussion of this questionnaire can be guided in many different directions.

For younger students, teachers might find it most beneficial to discuss speech as part of a person’s culture. Just as people do not look alike, think alike or dress alike, nor do they talk in the same way. Such discussions could lead to more tolerance of diversity, especially linguistic diversity. Also, if students reveal that they think they “talk bad,” self-esteem activities might be helpful.

In reference to Virginia Standards Of Learning, language diversity can be incorporated with other subject areas, especially history and civics. For example, second grade students could learn Native American words when comparing tribes in Virginia and other regions of the country. Thus, they learn that Native Americans had many different languages and cultures. This realization could then be applied to modern-day inhabitants of Virginia when the students are reading Appalachian literature or works focusing on other linguistic minorities.

Older students, such as eighth graders, may benefit from some of the topics listed above, but could also examine dialect’s role in literature. Specifically, discussion about dialect in literature could apply to the following:

Explaining the use of symbols and figurative language:

How? Have students discover for themselves that such symbols and figurative language are often culturally bound.

Idea:  Ask students to fill in the blanks for symbols, words and expressions. The words and expressions would vary, depending on your own observations of local speech. Students could compare their answers with each other and/or take a blank form home and ask a person who comes from a different region, generation or culture to provide the answers.

If you’re really hungry, you’re hungry as a _________________.

If someone is really angry, he/she is angry/mad as a _____________.

If you’re really scared, you’re scared _________________.

Shoes you exercise in are ____________________.

The container with a handle that put water in, to carry it, is a _____________________.

Describing how authors use characters and tone to create meaning:

How?  Discuss how dialect helps develop characters and create tone.

Comparing and contrasting the poetic elements of word choice, dialogue, rhyme, rhythm and voice:

How?  All of these differ across dialects. Comparing poets who use different dialects would reveal these differences.

Explaining how a literary selection can expand or enrich personal viewpoints or experiences:

How?  Students could read literature from their own region and literature from another region or culture (with or without dialect). Before and after reading each piece, students could answer a short survey or write a journal entry about the geographic place, the culture, ways the people there are the same/different as people in the student’s hometown. They could compare what they wrote in the beginning with what they wrote in the end.

Other ideas:

Explore the social sciences and introduce students to empirical research by having them do dialect research. This is a great opportunity for students to observe, compare, develop critical thinking skills, and learn more about the cultural and oral traditions of the region.

How?  Have students brainstorm about features of speech (a word, a pronunciation, an element of grammar) they think they hear often. Have each student pick one or two features to investigate. Have students form a hypothesis about who uses this feature of speech, when, and how often .

Using specific guidelines, each student finds a subject and records casual conversation for 20-30 minutes (or read a text rich in variables, such as the “Mary” story). The student analyzes 10 minutes of the conversation, counting the number of times the feature(s) is and is not used.

See also
Send it to the Crick: A Student's Reflection on Dialect Differences
Analysis of Dialect in Appalachian Children's Books


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Dialect pages created May 2000. This page's last update: 12/21/03
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