JOPOL 5(2021)

Ideologies of Language and Place: Conflicting Expectations to Dialectal Speech Between Informants and Dialectologists
Yonatan Goldshtein & Liv Moeslund Ahlgren

The idea of an unproblematic language-place connection, which is axiomatic to traditional dialectology, is often challenged based on language use in highly globalized, urban societies (e.g. Blommaert 2010; Quist 2010). The present paper challenges this assumption from the vantage-point of rural, non-mobile speakers born around the beginning of the 1900s. The data analyzed consist of sociolinguistic interviews recorded as part of a massive effort to document the traditional dialects of Denmark in the 1970s as well as a detailed set of metadata containing the dialectologists’ evaluations of the informants’ language and knowledge. We analyze the metadata as metalinguistic commentary, which provides a window to the language ideologies of the dialectologists. In the metadata, the speech of the informant is evaluated as good and authentic if it is pure, old, and local. Practices that may be central to the language use and linguistic knowledge of the informants, but do not live up to the preconceptions of the dialectologists, are construed as deviant, inauthentic and without belonging. In the recordings themselves, we have analyzed situations, where the language of the informant does not live up to the expectations of the dialectologists. The reactions of the informants in these situations point to their understandings of their own language. The paper concludes that we cannot assume that the speech of these non-mobile, rural speakers unproblematically reflects the place they are from, but rather it must reflect a complex sociolinguistic balancing of linguistic identity and attentiveness to context.

Keywords: Dialectal authenticity, discourse analysis, standard language, conversation analysis, sociolinguistics of Danish