CHARLENE J. SATO DISTINGUISHED LECTURE
February 5: Language as part of the diversity canon: How learning about dialects improves students’ attitudes about difference
Presenter: Dr. Jeffrey Reaser, North Carolina State University
Despite being a crucial social marker of many of these groups, dialect and language variation has remained outside of the diversity canon. Even as sociolinguistic information has begun to permeate teacher education programs, linguistically aware teachers are often stifled by a paucity of materials that teach about language variation. This shortage of information and materials about linguistic diversity is made more critical as teacher and student demographics have never been more dissimilar: the diversity of students has increased while the teaching population has become increasingly homogeneous. In this talk, Dr. Jeffrey Reaser will discuss and share examples of the first state-based dialect awareness program to be developed and implemented in the United States, Voices of North Carolina: Language and Life from the Atlantic to the Appalachians (Reaser and Wolfram 2007). The curriculum, designed for middle school students, offers teachers and students an opportunity to investigate regional and social dialects, including Appalachian English, Outer Banks English, African American English, and Lumbee Indian English. It also explores the use of Spanish and the revitalization of Cherokee in the state. In collaboration with a team of professors and teachers, Dr. Reaser has developed and implemented the curriculum in social studies classrooms in order to explore the historical, social, political, and linguistic aspects of language. One noteworthy part of the curriculum is that it is designed to be taught by classroom teachers who lack linguistic training. He will examine data demonstrating the effectiveness of the curriculum for improving students’ knowledge and attitudes about language variation as well as the responses of classroom teachers to the materials and information. He will discuss how these data can inform curriculum design and empower more educators to incorporate information about language into their classes. Finally, he will share how these same principles have been used in the creation of the nation’s first formal diversity education program focused on language, which has now become a part of the diversity training for all employees of NC State University.
Jeffrey Reaser is an Associate Professor of English at North Carolina State University where he coordinates the secondary English education program and contributes to the North Carolina Language and Life Project. He served as the lead developer for the Do You Speak American? Secondary School Curriculum (2005) and College-Level Curriculum (2005) (PBS). His research examines the effectiveness of formal and public education linguistics projects, including the development and testing of the nation’s first state-based dialect awareness program, Voices of North Carolina: Language and Life from the Atlantic to the Appalachians (Reaser and Wolfram 2007). In conjunction with the NCLLP and the Ocracoke Preservation Society, he compiled an oral history project entitled Ocracoke Still Speaks: Reflections Past and Present (2011). With Walt Wolfram, he co-authored Talkin’ Tar Heel: How Our Voices Tell the Story of North Carolina (2014), which was nominated for the Linguistics Society of America’s Leonard Bloomfield award. He has served on the American Dialect Society, the editorial boards of American Speech and Language and has chaired the Language in the School Curriculum Committee of the Linguistics Society of America.