A perceptual study of Scottish dialects
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Perceptual dialectology is dedicated to the formal study of folk linguistic perceptions. Through an amalgamation of social psychology, ethnography, dialectology, sociolinguistics, cultural geography and myriad other fields, perceptual dialectology provides a methodology to gain insight to overt folk language attitudes, knowledge of regional distribution, and the importance of language variation and change (Preston 1989, 1999a). This study conducts the first investigation of folk perceptions in Scotland through a perceptual dialectological approach. The research was carried out in Buckie, a rural fishing town and homogeneous community located on the northeast coast of Scotland. Due to its social and geographical isolation, the Northeast has retained a salient Scots identity and earlier qualities of dialect that have been lost in urban and mobile Scottish communities (Smith 2001:110).1 Buckie, as with much of the Northeast, is beginning to see a transition of community structure. Increasing geographic and social mobility due in part to the North Sea oil industry boom is opening the community to incomers and increasing exposure to the outside world (L. Milroy 1980, 2002; J. Milroy and L. Milroy 1985; Millar 2007). Through an examination of perceptions toward Scottish dialects, this research addresses both overt and covert attitudes toward Scottish language varieties by investigating three key research questions: 1) How is Scots language perceived? Do respondents identify it as part of a continuum? As a distinct language? As a dialect of English? As irrelevant or dead? 2) How do twelve Scottish government regions rated for degree-of-difference, correctness, pleasantness, broadness and Scottishness compare? What does this imply about the Scottish identity? How do these regions help define salient dialect areas? 3) What are the salient dialect areas in Scotland? Where are they perceived to exist? How are they described?Key factors impacting perceptions include geographical proximity, Scottish cultural salience and attitudes toward Scots identity. This dissertation examines the perceptions of dialects across Scotland and identity toward Scots and Scottish varieties in order to better understand ongoing change in Scottish languages from a folk perspective as well as to identify perceived dialect regions across Scotland.