Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Yoopers, Trolls, and Detroiters: The Perceptual Dialectology of Michigan


English Department


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Arts and Humanities


Perceptual dialectology finds that non-linguists determine dialect boundaries by linguistic features (e.g., Mase 1964; Lance 1999; Benson 2003; Evans 2012), along political and civil boundaries (e.g., Sibata 1959; Preston 1986; Inoue 1996; Lance 1999), and according to cultural differences (Preston 2002). Most importantly, these perceptions directly correspond to attitudes about groups of speakers (e.g. Lambert, Hodgson, Gardner & Fillenbaum 1960; Giles 1970; Giles & Ryan 1982; Niedzielski & Preston 2003). This study investigates how Michigan residents divide their state into dialect regions and groups of speakers. Perceptions such as these within one state can reveal local social categories, including urban/rural distinctions or the belief in the absence of dialect in a specific area or among certain groups of speakers. A focus on Michigan is particularly significant because unlike most states, it has two distinct regions, so distinct that residents separate the two areas physically, socially, and linguistically. This study contributes to perceptual dialectology studies of individual states (Benson 2003; Bucholtz et al. 2007; Evans 2012) and to research on Michigan dialects (e.g. Simon 2005; Remlinger 2006, 2007a & b, 2009; Remlinger, Salmons, & von Schniedemesser 2009). Methods include those established by Preston (e.g., 1986, 1993a, 1993b, 1996a, 1996b), Benson (2003), and Bucholtz et al (2007): an outline map, survey questions, a degree-of-difference task, and Likert scales. Analysis relies on a language ideology framework (e.g. Lippi-Green 1997; Irvine & Gal 2000; Silverstein 2003), which explains how attitudes and resulting prejudices reside within the articulation of specific linguistic features and social characteristics.

Conference Name

Midwest Session of the American Dialect Society at the Midwest Modern Language Association Meeting

Conference Location

Cinicinnati, Ohio

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