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It's Not What You Say, It's How You Say It

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Ashley Sherrow

on 6 May 2010

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Transcript of It's Not What You Say, It's How You Say It

It's Not What You Say,
It's How You Say It
Helen Boyer
Luke Chase
Lori Panyard
Mary Popplewell
Ashley Sherrow Introduction To Our Study Purpose The purpose of this study was to uncover attitudes and stereotypes associated with regional dialects. Specifically, we were interested in determining how people ranked standard versus non-standard American dialects in the categories of intelligence and socioeconomic status.We also had interest in seeing how two different non-standard dialects, one from Tennessee and one from New Hampshire, measured against each other in these areas. By collecting descriptions of what each participant imagined the speaker of each dialect to be, we were also able to determine what stereotypes and attitudes are connected to each accent we utilized. Our Hypothesis We expect non-standard American dialects to be perceived as less intelligent and associated with a lower socioeconomic status than a standard American dialect. Specifically, we are interested in the way participants relate two non-standard dialects to each other. We expect to find these stereotypes because American media teaches that speakers of non-standard dialects are generally less intelligent and belong to a lower socioeconomic group than standard dialect speakers. Significance We believe that it is important for people to understand how they may be perceived by others and how they may be perceiving others subconsciously, especially on the basis of dialect and accent. We think it is also important to understand the effects these perceptions can have on a speaker’s daily life. Our study also successfully demonstrates the equality that exists between dialects. By identifying stereotypes and attitudes associated with dialects, we were able to prove that despite the fact that all dialects can communicate any message, they are not all viewed equally. Our Method Research Participants We included 50 participants in our study. The participants provided basic demographic data, including their age, gender, and a list of the cities and states that they have resided in to evaluate any existing exposure to each dialect. We included 25 women and 25 men between the ages of 18 and 24. All participants were selected from the Ball State student population. We chose to have an equal gender distribution in order to evaluate any unexpected gender bias. Our Results Our Study Vs. The Original Based on “The voices people read: Orthography and the representation of non-standard speech” by Alexandra Jaffe and Shana Walton We believed it to be important for our research participants to develop the accent themselves, which is why we used dialect transcripts rather than recordings. By relying on orthographic representations, we were able to diminish bias based on sex, age, and other personal characterstics that can be communicated through a recording. General Information Average age of male participants: 20.2 years
Average age of female participants: 20.4 years
Strong correlation between intelligence rating and socioeconomic status rating
Participants consistently rated the Tennessee dialect lower than the New Hampshire dialect, and the standard dialect was ranked highest We surveyed 50 people, 25 women and 25 men. We included only European-American participants, most of which were from Indiana. The original study surveyed 38 people, but only 12 participants’ results were utilized (7 women and 5 men, between 19 and mid 40’s).The original study surveyed people of many different ethnicities, and most participants were from California. All participants were also part of a linguistics class.
The original study used standard, light, and heavy transcripts; the light and heavy were based upon the accent of a man from Mississippi. The study group developed the transcripts themselves based on the man’s actual speech. For our study, we used pre-made transcripts written in dialect. We chose to use 2 different non-standard dialects in order to compare the differences between them, if any existed.
The participants read only one transcript in the original study, while we had our participants read all three of our transcripts.
The original study focused strongly on the pronunciation and linguistic characteristics of their participants’ readings. We chose to focus more on the opinions developed about the “voice” our participants were reading.We had our participants rate the “voice” on intelligence and socioeconomic status, as well as giving a description of what they imagined the “person” to be like. Similarities Both shared a hypothesis and expectations for findings; “Non-standard orthographies index low social and linguistic status and power.”
Both shared the same assumptions, including the fact that accent and dialect carry social meanings and non-standard writing forms would be interpreted as dialects. We also believed that “…people attribute and rank social identities on the basis of written variables in much the same way as they make sociolinguistic judgments of speech”
Both asked participants to characterize the “voice” that they read
Results were generally the same in the aspects that can be compared between our study and the original; the non-standard dialects were perceived as less educated and “rural,” as was the case with our Transcript #1 (TN)
The descriptions between the original study and our Transcript #1 results were very similar (both being Southern accents); included descriptions such as “hick”, "hillbilly", "hay chewing", "white trash", etc. Differences If We Could Do It Over... Our Sources Of Error Order of the transcripts
Because we presented the transcripts in a certain order (which was found to be "worst" to "best") our results could have been skewed. We would have transcripts read in random order to prevent this.
Transcript 2, meant to represent a New Hampshire accent, had very inconsistent data.
We would choose a better written representation of this dialect, or another, more familiar non-standard American dialect.
Ideal test subjects should have been from different areas in the U.S., or a better representation of BSU’s student population. Our speakers spoke Midwestern English,the model for standard American English, which could have skewed the results.
We needed to include a measure of positive or negative feelings (especially in the written description section) to remove post-interview subjective analysis.

Our Conclusion Our hypothesis was supported by our
research, but that became a secondary finding.
The main idea that we learned from our study,
which we were not expecting to discover, developed
from the fact that each of our transcripts told the
exact same story. All dialects are capable of achieving
the same goals, like telling the same story. The
issue lies in people's minds. And because of this... It's Not What You Say, It's How You Say It. Comment Continuum Red= Tennessee
Blue= New Hampshire
Green= Standard To view this presentation,
go to http://prezi.com/tipglrwjhyib/
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