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Personality traits and stereotypes attributed to people with Appalachian dialects in comparison to the General American dialect

Dissertation
Author: Tara Parsons
Abstract:
The present study relates attributed personality traits to regional American dialects. Each participant listened to one audio taped sample of a General American dialect and one Appalachian dialect sample. Participants then selected personality traits which they believed characteristic of each accented speaker. Eighty-seven randomly selected college students (37 from West Virginia and 50 from Illinois) participated. Attributed personality traits were rated using the Speech Dialect Attitudinal Scale-21. Results indicate that West Virginia and Illinois college students rated the Appalachian speaker as having a lower aesthetic qualities than the Midwestern speaker ( p < .001). The Illinois college students rated both speakers, Appalachian and Midwestern, as having poorer aesthetic qualities and poorer dynamism than the West Virginia college students (p < .01). These results differed slightly from findings from older studies, however this topic as not been addressed in many years and views and attitudes towards dialects may have changed thus altering the overall results of this study.

Table of Contents Copyright ii Signature Page iii Permission to Reproduce Copyrighted Materials iv Abstract v List of Tables viii Chapter 1: Introduction 1 Chapter 2: Literature Review 6 The Study of Language and Its Variables 6 Regional Differences 8 Appalachian Stereotypes 9 Appalachian Dialect 10 Formation of Stereotypes 12 Methodological Issues 16 Confounding Variables in Dialect Studies 20 Social Stigma and Attitude Change 23 Real-Life Implications of Dialect Based Stereotypes 25 Chapter 3: Research Questions 28 Chapter 4: Method 29 Participant Recruitment 29 Materials 29 Procedure 31 vi

Analysis of the Data 32 Chapter 5: Results 33 Research Question 1: Is There a Relationship Between Dialect and Attributed Personality Traits of an Appalachian Speaker As Judged By Appalachians and Midwesterners? 34 Research Question 2: Will the Appalachian Students Select Traits That Indicate Lower Socio-Intelliectual Status for the Appalachian Speaker? 34 Research Question 3: Will the Midwestern Students Select More Stereotypical Traits for the Appalachian Dialectical Speaker? 35 Chapter 6: Discussion 36 Summary of Results 36 Discussion of Results 36 Comparing Current Results to Those of Previous Studies 38 Methodological Limitations 39 Conclusions and Implications 40 References 42 Appendix A 46 vii

List of Tables Table 1: Means and Standard Deviations of the Dependent Variables of the Two Groups 33 viii

CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION Variations in language or dialect are often causes for the prejudgment of an individual's personality traits (Allen, 1990; Ballengee-Morris, 2000; Hopper, 1977; Lambert, Hodgson, Gardner, & Fillenbaum, 1960; Mulac & Rudd, 1977). These prejudgments have been shown, for example, to cause difficulties in attempting to find employment (Atkins, 1993; Carlson & McHenry, 2006; Hopper; Seggie, Fulmizi, & Stewart, 1982) as well as to shape teachers' perceptions of their students and vice versa (Edwards, 1977; Goodman & Buck, 1997; Williams, Whitehead, & Miller, 1972). In judging a speaker's dialect, previous research has suggested that listeners may also attribute personality traits based on gender (Mulac, Incontro, & James, 1985) and ethnicity (Nesdale & Rooney, 1990; William, Whitehead, & Miller, 1971) as well as nationality (Bayard, Weatherall, Gallois, & Pittam, 2001; Mulac, 1976); Podberesky, Deluty, & Feldstein, 1990; and regional differences in dialect (Delia, 1972; Edwards, 1977; Mulac, 1976; Mulac & Rudd, 1977; Schenck-Hamlin, 1978; Seggie et al, 1982). Studies have compared personality traits attributed to the General American dialect to traits attributed to Australian and New Zealand English (Bayard et al., 2001), Spanish- and Oriental-accented English (Podberesky et al., 1990), and British-accented English (Mulac, 1976). Previous studies have also compared the General American dialect to New England and Southern dialects (Delia, 1972), Appalachian and Bostonian dialects (Mulac & Rudd, 1977), and Southern dialects (Schenck-Hamlin, 1978). In general, the results indicated that people with nonstandard dialects, both foreign and 1

domestic, are often considered to possess more negative personality traits and fewer skills. General impressions are often formed of people who speak with noticeable dialects due to stereotypes associated with these dialects (Jussim, Coleman, & Lerch 1987; Nesdale & Rooney, 1990). Stereotyping is generally defined as beliefs that are shared about personal attributes, usually personality traits, of a group of people (Leyens, Yzerbyt, & Schadron, 1994). However, the traits associated with the stereotypes are typically exaggerated and over-generalized to an entire population of people which can lead to inaccurate predictions of personality traits (Jussim et al.; Leyens et al; Nesdale & Rooney). For example, Appalachians are often stereotyped as unintelligent, uneducated, poor, passive but friendly people (Ballengee-Morris, 2000; Branscome, 1971; Delia, 1972; Mulac, Hanley, & Prigge, 1974; Mulac & Rudd, 1977). The current study explored these stereotype-based personality traits and compared them to the traits selected for the General American dialect. Previous studies investigating personality traits attributed to dialectical speakers have used many different methods of collecting data. Mulac and Rudd (1977) recorded their dialectical speakers describing two large landscape photographs. Other studies recorded their speakers reading a neutral passage (Delia, 1972; Lambert et al., 1960; Williams et al., 1972). Many studies used the matched-guise technique devised by Lambert et al. This technique uses one person to produce all of the accented speech samples. This technique is advantageous in eliminating the paralinguistic features that differ between speakers. However, the major disadvantage of this technique is that the 2

speaker can often be identified as having a false dialect (Berk-Seligson, 1984). Questions regarding validity of speech produced is often the cause of disagreement between researchers using different techniques. To reduce this threat, the present study used two authentic dialectical speakers' audio recordings instead of the matched-guise technique. Other studies have examined the effects of Southern dialects on perceived personality traits with added variables such as additional information about the speakers' characters (Delia, 1972) or messages that are relevant to stereotypes (Delia, 1975; Schneck-Hamlin, 1978). Delia (1972) found that students attributed personality traits to General American, Southern, and New England dialectical speakers that were congruent with the stereotypes of those regions. However, when given information about the speaker's character, such as confident, conforming, sarcastic, or polite, they attributed personality traits to the speaker that matched the characteristics given. Delia (1975) and Schneck-Hamlin found that messages concerning the political standings of the speaker, such as views on desegregation and government policy, similarly influenced the perceived personality traits of the speakers. This indicates that information about the speakers' character, whether given directly or alluded to via attitudes, can influence people's perceptions of their personality traits. The present study builds on the findings and extends them by comparing the attributed personality traits of an Appalachian and Midwestern speaker as judged by Appalachian and Midwestern college students who had no additional information about the speakers. Midwestern dialect was used because it is considered to be the General American dialect (Edwards, 1992). Appalachian dialect is considered to be a 3

nonstandard US dialect but has been the focus of just a few studies in dialect (Delia, 1972; Mulac & Rudd, 1977). Previous studies (Delia, 1972; Mulac & Rudd) have found that people with an Appalachian dialect were judged as having personality traits that were stereotypical to the region such as being of lower intelligence, unattractive, passive followers, and friendly in comparison to the General American dialect, often known as the Midwestern dialect. However, these studies are over 30 years old and perceptions of the Appalachian dialect may have changed over the years. The Appalachian economy has expanded greatly in the past 30 years (United States Embassy, 2000) and, as a result, tourism has significantly increased (National Geographic, 2006). With more visitors to this region, Appalachians are exposed to the different cultures of the tourists as the tourists are exposed to the culture of the Appalachians. Thus, the stereotypes made by both peoples may be less pronounced than they were 30 years ago. As Ballengee-Morris (2000) noted in her study, this issue is particularly important because the "psychological internalization of the pejorative image has hindered the ability of [Appalachians], particularly the young, to accept their identity, resulting in self-hatred, cultural denial, and lack of self-determination" (p. 1). If the results of this study indicate a positive change in perception of Appalachian dialects, then the internalization of negative stereotypes is less likely and thus less of a threat to Appalachian identity. However, if the negative stereotypes remain, this threat continues. Prior studies suggest that as a nonstandard dialect, Appalachian dialect will be rated as having more negative traits (Bayard et al., 2001; Delia, 1972; Mulac & Rudd, 1977; Podberesky et al., 1990). 4

Mulac and Rudd's (1977) study found that the Appalachian dialectical speaker was rated as having more unattractive and stereotypical personality traits than the General American dialectical speaker by the Midwestern and Appalachian participants. Taking into account the previous studies (Bayard et al., 2001; Delia, 1972; Mulac & Rudd; Podberesky et al., 1990), the present study will likely indicate that stereotypical traits will be assigned to the Appalachian speaker by both the Midwestern and Appalachian students. This can be explained by Ballengee-Morris's (2000) suggestion of the psychological internalization of the stereotype. The current study attempted to investigate the personality traits attributed to the Appalachian and General American dialects by Appalachian and Midwestern college students. To reduce the possibility of confounding variables, two authentic dialectical speakers' audio recordings were used instead of the matched-guise technique. The speakers were also of the same gender, race, educational background, and age category. It is hypothesized that there is a relationship between dialect and perceived personality traits of the speakers, Appalachian students will attribute choose traits that indicate lower socio-intellectual status for the Appalachian speakers, and Midwestern students will attribute more stereotypical traits for the Appalachian dialectical speaker. 5

CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW The Study of Language and Its Variables Language itself is a key identifying feature of a culture. The language or dialect one speaks identifies his or her country of origin or region of that country. This feature is usually the basis for generalizations or stereotypes by the listener (Lambert et al., 1960). Lambert et al. (1960) concluded that "evaluational reactions to a spoken language should be similar to those prompted by interaction with individuals who are perceived as members of the group that uses it..." (p. 44). Thus, making personality judgments based on one's dialect should generalize to making the same personality judgments upon face- to-face interactions with the individual members of that group. It can also be generalized that characteristics such as vocal quality and strength of dialect have significant effects upon the judgments of speakers of a different dialect. This idea was demonstrated by Mulac et al. (1974) when they used foreign born students from three areas of Europe, Norway, Italy and Eastern Europe, as well as American students. The results of the study indicated that the speakers who sounded "foreign" to a specific group of listeners tended to be rated lower on aesthetic quality, socio-intellectual status, and dynamism than speakers who spoke in their common dialect. It should be noted that dialect and accent are interchangeable terms for many of these studies. Yet, some studies consider dialect to be a term for a regional difference in the sound of a language and accent is a difference in the sound of language because one has come from a different country. 6

Speech itself is a very complex subject thus making examination of speech as a whole difficult. Phonetics is the study of speech sounds, their form, substance and perception. Edwards (1992) noted that there are five major branches of phonetics: experimental, articulatory, acoustic, perceptual, and applied. Experimental phonetics is the branch that deals with research methods and laboratory techniques. Articulatory phonetics addresses speech-sound production. Acoustic phonetics includes studying sound waves as they travel from the mouth of the speaker to the ear of the listener. Perceptual phonetics focuses on how speech sounds are perceived by the listener. Lastly, applied phonetics is the application of phonetic knowledge gathered from any or all of the four previously listed branches of phonetics. This study deals with experimental phonetics, using research to determine reactions to different dialects. However, once the data is collected and reported then a branch of applied phonetics will use the information to generalize it in different situations. In short, there are three major branches of applied phonetics that are associated with speech sounds. The sound of an individual's speech can be used stereotypically in determining personality traits. Variations in speech sounds cause people to be grouped accordingly, i.e., Northern, Southern, British, African-American, etc. Grouping people in this manner allows for stereotypes of the individual groups. Therefore, speech itself can elicit stereotypes for an individual. 7

Regional Differences There are six distinct regions of the United States. These regions include the Northeast, Middle Atlantic, South, Midwest, Southwest, and West. Although these regions share many similarities, there are many differences such as food, ethnic background, religious affiliations, and dialect. In the current study, college students from two states, Illinois and West Virginia, were selected as participants. Illinois is considered to be a Midwestern state and West Virginia is a Southern state (United States Department of State [USDS], 2003). The Midwest is one of the largest regions with the most variation in weather. It is considered a crossroads of cultures. Beginning in the early 1800s settlers moved there to search for better farmland. Many Germans, Swedes, and Norwegians settled in this area because of its flat land and rich, fertile soil. This soil allowed farmers to produce an abundance of crops such as wheat, corn, and oats. Because of the crops, this region became known as the nation's "breadbasket" (USDS, 2003). Inhabitants of the Midwest are often considered to be friendly, open, and straightforward. The politics of the area are considered to be cautious. This area also gave birth to the Republican Party which was formed to oppose the spread of slavery in the 1850s. The Midwest also gave rise to the Progressive Movement, which consisted of farmers and merchants who wanted to erase the government's corruption thus allowing it to be more receptive to the needs of the people. The Midwest is considered a major connecting point to all other United States regions through railroads and airplanes (USDS). 8

In comparison, the South is smaller region than the Midwest with temperate weather and mountainous terrain. The first settlers to this area were English Protestants who maintained their English roots. At this time, the economy was largely based on cotton and tobacco farming on plantations. To supply the needed labor, slavery took root in the South. After the Civil War, slavery was abolished but segregation remained for nearly another century. After shaking off the effects of slavery and racial division, a new regional pride emerged under the banner of "The New South" (USDS, 2003). Currently, the South no longer relies as heavily on agriculture, but has turned to manufacturing and tourism as a source of economy. Southerners are usually considered to be relaxed, traditional, and hospitable. Appalachian Stereotypes Mulac and Rudd (1977) found that Appalachians stereotyped a speaker of their own dialect as less intelligent sounding that the General American speaker. This may in part be explained by how Appalachians are portrayed in movies, television, and on the news. For example, Jessica Lynch, the West Virginian solider who was captured by the Iraqis in March of 2003, became a national hero when she was rescued after 8 days as a Prisoner of War. The last paragraph on the CNN website that described the made-for- television movie about her ordeal includes the line, "Lynch, an aspiring teacher who joined the army to get an education, comes from a community that has an unemployment rate of 15 percent — one of the highest in West Virginia" (CNN, 2003). This line had no relevance to the story and aided in the further stereotyping of Appalachians. 9

James Branscome (1971) described television shows such as The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, and Hee-Haw as "the most intensive effort ever exerted by a nation to belittle, demean, and otherwise destroy a minority people within its boundaries" (p. 25). As Appalachians are confronted with these stereotypes, they may internalize these negative qualities. Ballengee-Morris (2000) noted in her study that "psychological internalization of the pejorative image has hindered the ability of [Appalachians], particularly the young, to accept their identity, resulting in self-hatred, cultural denial, and lack of self-determination" (p. 1). Thus, stereotypes given to a culture may actually cause negative reactions to culture from its own members. Appalachian Dialect As Bernstein (2000) has shown, popular media usually misrepresents Southern and Appalachian dialects. Also, there is a difference between the two dialects. Appalachian dialect is a distinct version of the general Southern dialect. Though each Southern state has unique versions of twang, most hold tight to a distinctly Dixie pronunciation: A change in the / means that kid {kid) sounds like key-ed {head) (Hammel, 1999). Accents are dialects are part of everyone's identity. Slight shifts in regional dialects occur but it is slow paced and the general dialect remains as to retain the identity of that region. As with any dialect, not everyone adheres to the popular pronunciations of that particular dialect but there are general trends. For instance, Butters (1981) concluded that lol is raised to a long Id sound in Appalachian folk speech such as in the word borrow 10

(bor' ro) which becomes borree (bor' e). This is also the case for the final unstressed schwa in words such as soda (so' da) or extra (eks'tra) which become sodee (so' de) and extree (eks' tre). Overall, words such as borree (bor' e) and extree (eks' tre) are usually attributed to the older generation of Appalachian speakers yet they are the basis of the dialect and shaped the way the younger generation speaks. The most prominent difference in Appalachian dialect is the pronunciation of vowels including those found in the words kid dead pen. As in any dialect, there are variations among individuals but there is a general sound elicited by each region. Appalachians, like those from any other culture, tend to hold their lifestyle in high regard. Ballengee-Morris (2000) notes that generalizing Appalachian culture is difficult and complex. Appalachians come from various ethnic groups including, but not limited to, Native Americans (typically Cherokee), Scotch-Irish, and Africans. In the Appalachian culture (Ballengee-Morris, 2000): Tradition is defined as a bridge between heritage (the culture of the past) and culture (the present reaction to time and place). The culture is a response to the geographical land forms, occupations, political and social convictions, resistance to oppression, social change, political dynamics, and stereotypic institutional stagnation and stereotyping, (p. 2) The dialect is a strong way to identify with the ideals of Appalachian culture (Clines, 2000). However, since the mass media may have helped shape those with an Appalachian dialect to become looked down upon, many are attempting to lose their "twang" and speak in the General American Dialect. Clines noted that many teachers in the Appalachia area are encouraging their students to keep the language alive. The 11

teachers made a clear distinction between written English and spoken language. The word "holler" and "crick" is an example. "Holler" in written English is hollow and "crick" in written English is creek. Yet, students are encouraged embrace the dialect of the region that makes them so unique. Again, this is pointing to the idea that dialect is a strong aspect of identity. "The only real problem with dialect... is the prejudice of outsiders who rate some people as inferior and deny them opportunities because of the way they talk" (Clines, 2000, p. 42). Formation of Stereotypes Stereotyping is generally defined as beliefs that are shared about personal attributes, usually personality traits, of a group of people (Leyens et al., 1994). Stereotypes can encompass many different groups, such as different ethnic groups, genders, sexual orientations, and cultures. Thus people have developed stereotypes for many different groups in each of these categories. Stereotypes are not random traits assigned to groups. There is a kernel of truth in stereotypes. Stereotypes are somewhat based on reality even if it is "an exaggeration of reality or is outdated by the reality that contributed to their expression" (Leyens et al., 1994, p. 15). Also, stereotypes are not always negative or derogatory. There are positive aspects to stereotypes, such as all Asians are intelligent or all African-Americans are athletic. They are not negative traits but they are still stereotypical of a particular group of people. 12

People in the world divide themselves between "us and them" or in-groups and out-groups. Aronson (2004) noted that dividing people as we do can cause two effects, the homogeneity effect and in-group favoritism. The homogeneity effect is the tendency to view members of an out-group to have more similarities than the members of our own group. In-group favoritism is defined as the "positive feelings and special treatment for people we have defined as being part of out in-group, and negative feelings and unfair treatment for others simply because we have defined them as being in the out-group" (Aronson, 2004, p. 353). Jussim et al. (1987) examined three different theoretical approaches to stereotyping based on these effects. The complexity-extremity theory states that in-group members evaluate out-group members differently. In-group members form opinions of out-group members along fewer dimensions thus leading to more extreme outcomes of the judgment. The second theory, named the assumed characteristics theory, reports that people assume that in-group members encompass more propitious traits than out-group members. The third theory, expectancy violation, suggests that people judge others based on stereotypes. When these stereotypes are violated, the traits attributed to that person would shift to the extreme positive side of the spectrum of personality traits. "Among the research on stereotyping and communication conducted by social psychologists, the linguistic intergroup bias arguably has been studied the most" (Ruscher, 2001, p. 29). Ruscher also reports that the fact that language has been studied across researchers, cultures and types of stereotypes is important because it makes the possibilities of chance findings unlikely. 13

Communication can lead to prejudice and normally occurs not at the interpersonal level, but instead at the level of culture (Ruscher, 2001). The in-group members prefer their own culture patterns to those of the out-group members thus imposing negative consequences on the out-group when it does not conform to these patterns. This is especially damaging when the in-group is the dominant group. "Outgroup members with heavy accents, or who look away when spoken to or use variants on the language of the dominant group, are devalued, ridiculed, or experience discrimination when attempting to enter particular institutions [cultures]" (Ruscher, 2001, p. 3). The Midwestern participants are the dominant, General American English speaking group thus making the Appalachian dialectic speakers the out-group. Since the Appalachian dialect is not part of the Midwestern cultural pattern, stereotypes likely arise. Examining the differentiation between groups and the forming of social identity is another means of developing stereotypes (Ford & Tonander, 1998). In this study, participants rated two fictitious groups (Group X and Group Y) on the traits of friendliness and intelligence. The participants took an assessment test of their own personality and were told that they were either members of Group X, Group Y, or the control group called Group Z. They were given descriptions of past behaviors performed by members of both Group X and Y. Then they completed measures to assess the strength of association between the groups and perceptions of intergroup differences in intelligence and friendliness. The results of the experiment indicated the following: When social identity is threatened by the reality that the in-group is negatively distinguished from an out-group along some highly differentiating dimension, the social perceiver is likely to structure emerging stereotypes in a way that ensures 14

the development of a positive social identity while still reflecting the in-group's negative standing along that dimension. (Ford & Tonander, 1998, p. 380) Another study looked at the participants' general view of personality traits. Levy, Stroessner, and Dweck (1998) examined the role of implicit theories in forming rigid versus flexible personality stereotypes. The implicit theories were separated into two categorizes: incremental theory and entity theory. Entity theorists are more likely than incremental theorists to engage in the key process needed in stereotyping. Entity theorists tend to make more extreme trait judgments of a person from limited social information whether the judgment is positive or negative. Incremental theorists use the information as provisional descriptors, or a starting point. Entity theorists use the information in a more rigid manner and depend on the information as confident predictors of the person described. After analyzing five experiments, Levye et al. (1998) concluded the following: Across five experiments we found that people who hold entity theories were more likely than those who hold incremental theories to exhibit hallmarks of social stereotyping. Specifically, although both groups were equally knowledgeable about societal stereotypes, entity theorists agreed more strongly with these stereotypes, believed more strongly that stereotypes reflected innate or inherent group differences, generated more traits to describe novel group members, and used more extreme qualifiers for the traits they generated. They made more extreme judgments of a novel group's attributes on the basis of limited information, were more likely to believe that the information they received was sufficient to justify their judgments, make their judgments more quickly, and perceived less intragroup variability, (p. 1433) Overall, they concluded that the degree to which people judge personality traits in general, either rigidly or flexibly, affects the degree to which they engage in creating and maintaining stereotypes. This study also showed that whether one keeps rigid ideas of a 15

stereotype of a particular group or are more flexible with their opinions, they all still form some sort of stereotype about a group of people. Methodological Issues Dialect is recognized as verbalized word forms, melody, rhythm, tempo and pause. Controlling these factors would eliminate what makes each dialect distinct. Mulac et al. (1974) and Mulac and Rudd (1977) noted that dialect and accent is taken to include both phonemic and prosodic features. Removing or controlling these factors would greatly hinder the research on dialect and accent because these are key features of distinction. Therefore, in the present study, the linguistic features that are expressed by each speaker were considered part of that speaker's dialect and was not manipulated or held constant. The speakers' dialects, including the differences in tempo and rhythm, are the basis of measurement for the present study. Since holding speech differences constant would alter the authenticity of the dialect, the present study refrained from doing so. In consideration of the present study, Appalachian speakers have the stereotype of being of lower intelligence, unattractive and passive followers (; Allen, 1990; Bernstein, 2000; Coles, 1972; Mulac & Rudd, 1977). Thus, Midwesterners should rate Appalachians lower on all three domains of the SDAS-21 scale (socio-intelligence status, aesthetic quality and dynamism). Findings from one study (Mulac & Rudd) supported that this hypothesis with Appalachian, General American and Bostonian dialects. The Appalachian speech was rated lower on all three domains than was the General American 16

speech but it did rate higher than the Boston dialect on aesthetic quality. Interestingly, even Appalachian listeners downgraded their own dialect on the socio-intellectual status scale. However, one may question the validity of the speech elicited by the audio taped regional speaker that was rated. Each speaker was recorded during a "spontaneous monologue elicited by two large landscape photographs" (Mulac & Rudd, 1977, p. 187). Since each monologue was different, the participants may well have rated the speakers based solely on a mixture of dialect and words used to describe the photographs. Another methodological issue is the manner in which each dialectical speaker is represented on audio tape. Many studies use a technique called matched-guise (e.g., Delia, 1972; Edwards, 1977; Lambert et al., 1960; Seggie et al., 1982). The matched- guise technique used in these studies is defined as one person performing all the dialects being studied. Seggie et al. used the technique to evaluate a potential employers attitude towards different Australian dialects. Edwards (1977) used the technique to study students' reactions to Irish accented teachers. Lambert et al. used matched-guise to evaluate attitudinal reactions to French and English accents. Delia (1972) conducted two studies that used this method with regional American dialects. He determined "whether stereotypic assessments are initially made of another on the basis of American dialect congruence or incongruence" (Delia, 1972, p. 288). He explains that dialect congruence indicates that the speaker and listener have the same dialect, whereas dialect incongruence suggests that the speaker and listener have different dialects. General American listeners (Illinois residents) listened to tapes of three different American dialects - General American, New England, and Southern. Native New Englanders and 17

Full document contains 55 pages
Abstract: The present study relates attributed personality traits to regional American dialects. Each participant listened to one audio taped sample of a General American dialect and one Appalachian dialect sample. Participants then selected personality traits which they believed characteristic of each accented speaker. Eighty-seven randomly selected college students (37 from West Virginia and 50 from Illinois) participated. Attributed personality traits were rated using the Speech Dialect Attitudinal Scale-21. Results indicate that West Virginia and Illinois college students rated the Appalachian speaker as having a lower aesthetic qualities than the Midwestern speaker ( p < .001). The Illinois college students rated both speakers, Appalachian and Midwestern, as having poorer aesthetic qualities and poorer dynamism than the West Virginia college students (p < .01). These results differed slightly from findings from older studies, however this topic as not been addressed in many years and views and attitudes towards dialects may have changed thus altering the overall results of this study.