This article offers a new approach to dialect attitudes and ideologies that combines argumentation theory with conversation-analytic techniques. This rhetorically oriented, qualitative approach is used to explore how socioindexical and language-related meanings of folk linguistic concepts are constructed in conversations among Oklahoma English speakers. “Twang” was selected as a test case because it is often mentioned by nonlinguists as a common descriptor of differences among American English dialects. The analysis reveals a complex socioindexical profile of twang that integrates language-related, spatial, temporal, sociocultural, and historical associations. It also reveals implicit discursive schemes of speech valorization that represent twang as a socially authenticating linguistic resource. Participants use gradient representations of twang to index symbolic social boundaries between unmarked and “lesser” forms of whiteness in the American South. The article shows that propositional processes of sociolinguistic indexicality engage experiential, affective, performative, perceptual, and identity-related processes: participants demonstrate these interrelated engagements when they rationalize, justify, valorize, and illustrate their individual experiences with linguistic variability.

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