Dialekt där den nästan inte finns : En folklingvistisk studie av dialektens sociala betydelse i ett standardspråksnära område

Sammanfattning: By approaching dialect and standard language from a folk linguistic perspective, this thesis aims to investigate how laypeople perceive, talk about and orient towards dialect and standard language in a dialect area close to the perceived linguistic and administrative centre of Sweden. It consequently focuses on dialect and standard language as socially meaningful entities, rather than as sets of linguistic features, and studies a dialect area as it is understood by those who identify with it. To explore these issues, group interviews, a set of quantitative tests among adolescents and a ‘mental mapping’ task were used.Participants’ descriptions of the local dialect suggest that many of them regard the dialect and the standard language as separate language systems. The standard language, strongly associated with writing, is perceived as formal and artificial. In contrast, dialect is understood simply as speech signalling local belonging. Variation expressing local belonging typically not regarded as dialect by dialectologists, is mentioned by participants more than once.The extent to which dialectal resources are described to be expected depends on the participants’ understanding of place, context and interlocutors. In some contexts, using dialect seems to be a way of overtly signalling one’s belonging to the local community. In this way the dialect is still important, perhaps even as a means of consolidating the local community’s existence. At the same time, however, the prototypical speaker is described as being old, indicating that spoken dialect is not particularly relevant today.By examining dialect and standard language as cultural phenomena in the area at the present time, it is shown how they can be used to construct one’s own group in relation to others, both regionally and locally within the area investigated. Although the local spoken language is considered close to the standard, the mechanisms controlling how language users determine their own dialect boundaries are arguably the same as in more complex dialect areas. Linguistic differences need not be large, or even in current use, to be perceived as distinct and important.