Dialect variation in Kentucky: Eastern Kentuckian perceptions

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The Appalachian Mountains, which, by various definitions, extend from New York to Mississippi, potentially making up part of the landscape of 13 different states, are known among many Americans as being home to a unique cultural and linguistic experience. The speech of Appalachians, however, is not typically valued by those Americans, as it has long been ridiculed by outsiders. Such ridicule has even caused some Appalachians themselves to believe that their place in the linguistic hierarchy of America is near the bottom. Yet, regional pride is emerging in new and exciting ways in Appalachia, and, using a perceptual dialectology framework, this chapter explores how Appalachians can turn the tables, showing not only pride in their local speech but also distaste for other varieties they perceive. Data from Eastern Kentucky residents, in the form of mental maps and language attitudes surveys, are presented herein to show what and where they believe Appalachian varieties exist, what attitudes they have towards such varieties, which other varieties in the state they perceive, and their beliefs about those varieties as well. Results suggest that while certain characteristics like education still get attached to more urban areas like Louisville and Lexington, Appalachians believe their own variety to be pleasant and beautiful, connecting the speech of the region to notions of culture, heritage, home, and family.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of the Changing World Language Map
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9783030024383
StatePublished - Oct 22 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020. All rights reserved.


  • Appalachia
  • Dialect variation
  • Language attitudes
  • Mental maps
  • Perceptual dialectology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences
  • General Arts and Humanities


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