Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Walt Wolfram: Dialectologist Extraordinaire
Envy me! I got to meet Walt Wolfram! These are the special perks I get by knowing Grinnellians far and wide and, um, right down the street from me. Sarah, who was in many of my Spanish classes at Grinnell, is now doing her PhD under Wolfram, and invited me to go see a presentation of the latest North Carolina Language and Life Project documentary. Given that I am currently reading Hoi Toide on the Outer Banks for fun at the moment, it seemed serendipitous.

This particular documentary, The Queen Family, was more on the music of Southern Appalachia, rather than the dialect, but it was still just as interesting, though I fear that the poor director of the film got overshadowed in the question and answer session by people asking dialect study questions of Wolfram.

The interesting thing that came out in that session was what Wolfram wants to do with all the materials he has put together on the various dialects of North Carolina. He wants to make a curriculum for 8th graders in NC, which is when they take NC history in social studies, on the linguistic heritage and history of the state. He has already started a curriculum for students on Ocracoke Island, which he takes interested college students with him to teach every spring break, and he says there is a whole new generation of children there that have a much greater pride in and knowledge of their particular dialect. It makes me wish I could take 8th grade over again. Almost.

In other strange coincidences, when he heard I worked for the Autism Society, he mentioned that he has a grandson with autism, so my job once again proves to make interesting connections.

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