Dialect death? 

My guest post on the University of Wisconsin Press blog:

The remote and isolated location of the Upper Peninsula, along with language contact between English and other languages have shaped Yooper talk over the past 150 years and have helped it to remain fairly distinct from other varieties of American English. In addition, several social and cultural processes have affected the development and longevity of regional dialects. Processes that have specifically shaped Yooper talk include tourism and, more broadly, economics, the sociolinguistic history of the Upper Peninsula, research on regional varieties, awareness about language variation, and how speakers claim identity with language.

To continue reading, click here: Oh yah, that’s Yooper Talk

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"Yooper" Gains (More) National Recognition

 https://www.facebook.com/UPtravel

Surely, this week’s hottest news for Yoopers, Yooper-wannabes, dialectologists, and lexicographers alike, is the news that Merriam-Webster will include Yooper in its collegiate edition later this year. Little do folks know, however, that the word has existed in the American Heritage Dictionary since 1999 and was included in the Dictionary of American Regional English‘s Volume 5. Ben Zimmer writes about the debut of Yooper in Wall Street Journal‘s “Word on the Street” column and Ann Curzan discusses its emergence on Michigan Radio’s “Stateside.” For me, a linguist who has studied the connections between language, place, and identity in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (UP), to see a regional term–one that I hold near and dear, and that I use as a prefix to “-wannabe”–become (more) nationally recognized is really cool stuff. It’s such a fine example of how social factors from language attitudes, to dialect contact, tourism, and media affect our language use and awareness. I write about this in more detail in “Everyone Up Here: Identity and Enregisterment in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula” and with Joe Salmons and Luanne VonSchneidemesser in “Revised Perceptions: Changing Dialect Perceptions in Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.”

This history of Yooper is not very old. It emerges through a variety of factors, including increased tourism to the UP. The following list of archival evidence from the Marquette County Historical Museum demonstrates Yooper’s recent birth:

· 1972 “Uppenites”: Artist Eugene Sinervo, Sand River, self publishes U.S. map distorting the size of the U.P and Great Lakes.
· 1978 “Yoop”: First known printing of the word “Yoop” by Detroit News journalist Jim Treloar, an Ishpeming and Marquette native.
· 1979 Escanaba Daily Press holds contest to name the people of the Upper Michigan. “Yooper” is declared the winner.
· 1982 Sociologist Michael Loukinen attempts to make a documentary about the cultural phenomenon of “Yoopers” but receives widespread criticism from older members of the community and instead releases “Good Man in the Woods.”      
· 1983 “Say Ya To Da U.P. eh?” Bumper sticker printed by Jack Bowers of Marquette in response to the “Say Yes to Michigan” tourism campaign.
· 1986 Da Yoopers band is formed bringing wider exposure to the term.  (Originally called the Yoopers).

To this list of regional evidence of the emergence and recognition of Yooper as a “real word,” we can add the popular TV game show, Jeopardy‘s use of Yooper in 2003, 2005, and 2014 (according to http://yoopersteez.com/post/yooper-dialect-on-jeopardy). This, and the dictionaries’ entries might appear to make Yooper a “real word.” But, despite this authoritative nod to the authenticity of Yooper, we must remember, as Ann Curzan says that “if we’re all using a word and know what it means, then it’s an actual word.”

Yoopers, Trolls, and Detroiters: Perceptions of Michiganders’ Talk

Where in Michigan do you think people speak best? Why? Where in Michigan do you think people speak worst? Why? These are questions that Angela Tramontelli are investigating. We’re curious as to where Michganders think the best and worse English is spoken in our state and who they think speaks the best and worse English. 

Perceptual dialectology studies the beliefs that non-linguists have about language variation, the ways that language differs from place to place and/or group to group. While sociolinguists (those who study language variation and change) typically categorize regional dialects according to bundles of linguistic features (pronunciations, vocabulary, grammatical structures), perceptual dialect studies have found that non-linguists determine dialect boundaries not only by linguistic features (e.g., Mase 1964; Lance 1999; Benson 2003; Evans 2012), but also along political and civil boundaries (e.g., Sibata 1959; Preston 1986; Inoue 1996; Lance 1999), and according to cultural differences (Preston 2002). Most importantly, previous research (e.g. Lambert, Hodgson, Gardner & Fillenbaum 1960; Giles 1970; Giles & Ryan 1982; Niedzielski & Preston 2003), has demonstrated that speaker attitudes of dialects directly correspond to attitudes about groups of speakers. These beliefs play a critical role in understanding the effects of linguistic and social prejudices on language change: speakers of stigmatized dialects are often pressured to change the way they talk. Therefore, these perceptions and attitudes are important to an understanding of the factors that affect language change, the relationship between language variation and groups of speakers, as well as the relationship between linguistic prejudice and social prejudice. 
Our study contributes to a growing body of research in this area. We are conducting surveys with Michigan residents to investigate these beliefs and are analyzing the data for patterns in how respondents divide the state into dialect regions and the social characteristics they attach to the speakers who live there. Perceptions such as these within one state can reveal local social categories, including urban/rural distinction (Evans 2012) or the belief in the absence of dialect in a particular state or region (Preston 2002).
Our study further contributes to research on Michigan dialects (e.g. Remlinger 2006; 2007a, b; 2009; Remlinger, Salmons, & von Schniedemesser 2009; Simon 2005) and would add to existing research that examines language attitudes within an individual state (Benson 2003; Bucholtz et al. 2007; Evans 2012), rather than the majority of perceptual dialect studies which focus on regional boundaries within an entire country. A focus on Michigan is particularly significant because unlike most states, it has two main regional dialects so distinct that residents separate the two areas linguistically and socially, as reflected in the labels Yooper and Troll and web pages such as “Michigan Accent: Pronunciations Unique to Us” (www.michigannative.com) and “Yooper Dialect” (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yooper_dialect).
Our study also builds on research that demonstrates that the attitudes people hold towards regional dialects are often representative of attitudes about the speakers of those dialects (Preston 1989, 2003; Benson 2003; Bucholtz et al. 2007). The project relies on a language ideology framework (e.g. Lippi-Green 1997; Irvine & Gal 2000; Silverstein 2003), which explains how these attitudes and resulting prejudices reside within the association of particular linguistic features with certain social characteristics. Our goals include creating awareness of this association, examining the relationship between perceptions of and attitudes towards language use and local social categories, furthering the understanding of dialect boundaries in Michigan, examining factors that affect language change, and investigating the common belief that English in the Lower Peninsula is standard and English in the UP is non-standard. 
References
Benson, E. (2003). Folk linguistic perceptions and the mapping of dialect boundaries. American Speech, 78 (3): 307-330.
Bucholtz, M., Bermudez, N., Fung,V., Edwards, L., & Vargas, R. (2007). Hella Nor Cal or Totally So Cal?: The Perceptual Dialectology of California. Journal of English Linguistics, 35: 325-352. DOI: 10.1177/0075424207307780
Evans, B. (2012). “Seattletonian” to “Faux Hick”: Perceptions of English in Washington state. American Speech 86, 4: 383-414. 
Giles, H. (1970). Evaluative reactions to accents. Educational Review 22: 211-227.
Inoue, F. (1996). Subjective dialect division in Great Britain.” American Speech
71: 142–61.
Irvine, J. & Gal, S. (2000). Language ideology and linguistic differentiation. In P. Kroskrity (ed.), Regimes of language: Ideologies, politics, and identities, pp. 35-84. Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research Press.
Lambert, W., Hodgson, R. Gardner, R. & Fillenbaum, S. (1960). Evaluations reactions to spoken languages. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 60: 44-51.
Lance, D. (1999). Regional variation in subjective dialect divisions in the United States. In Preston 1999, pp. 283–314.
Lippi-Green, R. (1997). English with and accent: Language, ideology, and discrimination in the United States. New York: Routledge.
Mase, Y. (1964). Hôgen Ishiki to Hôgen Kukaku. Gengo Kenkyû, 36: 1–30. Repr. in English as Dialect Consciousness and Dialect Divisions: Examples in the Nagano-Gifu Boundary Region. In Preston, D. ed., Handbook of perceptual dialectology, pp. 71-99Amsterdam: Benjamins.
Niedzielski, N. & Preston, D. (2003). Folk linguistics. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Preston, D. (1986). Perceptual dialectology. Dordrecht: Foris.
———. (1993a). Folk dialectology. In D. Preston, ed., American dialect research, pp. 333–77. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
———. 1993b. Two Heartland perceptions of language variety. In Frazer, T., ed.,“Heartland” English: Variation and transition in the American Midwest, pp. 23-47. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press.
———. 1996a. “Whaddayaknow?” The modes of folk linguistic awareness. Language Awareness, 5: 40–74.
–––. (1996b). Where the worst English is spoken. In Schneider, E., ed., Focus on the USA, pp. 297–360. Varieties of English around the World 16. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
—–, ed. 1999. Handbook of perceptual dialectology. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
–––. (2002). Language with an attitude. In Chambers, J. et al, eds., Handbook of language variation and change, pp. 40-66. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
—–. (2002). Perceptual dialectology: Aims, methods, findings. In J. Beerns and J. Van Marle,  eds., Present-day dialectology, pp. 57–104. Berlin: de Gruyter.
Remlinger, K. (2009). “Everyone up here”: Enregisterment and identity in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. American Speech, 84 (2): 118-137.
–––. with Salmons, Joseph and von Schneidemesser, Luanne. (2009). Revised perceptions: Changing dialect perceptions in Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. American Speech, 84 (2):176-192.
–––. (2007a). The intertwined histories of identity and dialect in Michigan’s Copper Country. In A. Hoagland, E. Nordberg, & T. Reynolds, eds., New perspectives on Michigan’s Copper Country, pp. 62-84. Houghton, MI: Quincy Mine Hoist Association.
–––. (2007b). Newfies, Cajuns, Hillbillies, and Yoopers: Gendered media representations of regional dialects. Linguistica Atlantica, Journal of the Atlantic Provinces Linguistic Association, 26-27: 96-100.
–––. (2006). What it means to be a Yooper: Identity, language attitudes, and variation in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. In M. Filppula, M. Palander, J. Klemola and E. Penttilä, eds., Topics in dialectal variation, pp. 125-144. Joensuu, Finland: University of Joensuu Press.
Sibata, T. (1959). Hôgen kyôkai no ishiki. Gengo Kenkyû 36: 1–30. Repr. In English as “Consciousness of Dialect Boundaries” in Preston, D., ed., Handbook of perceptual dialectology, pp. 39-62. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
Simon, B. (2005). Dago, Finlander, Cousin Jack: Ethnicity and identity on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. In D.Preston and B. Joseph, eds., Language profiles: Michigan and Ohio. Ann Arbor, MI: Caravan Books.
Silverstein, M. (2003). Indexical order and the dialectics of sociolinguistic life. Language and Communication, 23: 193-229.