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The Normative North and the Stigmatized South


As part of a larger perceptual dialectology study of linguistic diversity within California, this article focuses on a survey of Californians regarding the evaluation of language use within the state. Quantitative and qualitative analysis of two open-ended survey questions regarding where Californians “speak the best” and “speak the worst” reveals that Southern California is stigmatized by a majority of respondents as having the worst speech within the state and Northern California is valorized as having the best speech, due to the perceived differential access of speakers to educational opportunities. A small but socially significant “political correctness effect” also emerges, whereby some respondents indicate reluctance to evaluate others' linguistic varieties. The findings demonstrate both the need for greater attentiveness to ideological issues in research design and the importance of combining different theoretical and methodological traditions in the study of language ideologies and attitudes.

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