The current study used a hand-drawn map task, a dialect difference rating task, and a dialect
classification task to explore the relationship between participants’ ideologies
about dialect differences and their classification of authentic talkers from six regional
varieties in Enshi Prefecture, China. The talkers frequently mistaken for each other in the
dialect classification task were those who came from counties that were perceived to have
similar dialects in the hand-drawn map task and the dialect difference rating task.
Participants showed a positive response bias for the Enshi dialect in classifying talkers,
corresponding to the dialect difference ratings that Enshi was rated as least different. Thus
participants’ classification of real talkers was largely consistent with their
ideologies about differences among “imagined” dialects.
Participants’ ideologies about dialect differences were shaped by their home county,
and their classification performance was affected by their home county and the
talker’s social background.