Southernness and our linguistic planets of belief: The view from Kentucky

Jennifer Cramer, Susan Tamasi, Paulina Bounds

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


This article explores the perceptions of the American South within a perceptual dialectology framework, guided by Sean Carroll's metaphor PLANETS of BELIEF: "Planets don't sit on foundations; they hold themselves together in a self-reinforcing pattern. The same is true for beliefs: they aren't (try as we may) founded on unimpeachable principles that can't be questioned. Rather, whole systems of belief fit together with one another, in more or less comfortable ways, pulled in by a mutual epistemological force" (The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself [New York: Dutton, 2016], 116). Because perceptions of Southernness often appear as unchanging and unquestionable, this metaphor provides an appropriate framework for understanding how Southern dialects have often been perceived to be the "worst" American dialects. The analysis centers on the labels used by Kentuckians in the draw-a-map task used in perceptual dialectology research. They serve as a glimpse into the linguistic belief planets people have and suggest how individuals view their beliefs to be unimpeachable. Results show that Kentuckians present complex understandings of Southernness and even Kentucky-ness as they relate to dialect labels, and the belief planets they demonstrate are intimately connected to their perceptions of their own Southernness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)445-470
Number of pages26
JournalAmerican Speech
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2018 by the American Dialect Society.


  • Identity
  • Ideologies
  • Labels
  • Mental maps
  • Perceptual dialectology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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