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Dr. Walt Wolfram

Picture of Dr. Walt Wolfram

Named Distinguished Univ Professor


Walt Wolfram is William C. Friday Distinguished Professor of English Linguistics at North Carolina State University, where he also directs the North Carolina Language and Life Project. He has pioneered research on social and ethnic dialects since the 1960s, authoring or co-authoring more than 20 books and more than 300 articles on regional, social, and ethnic dialects of American English, including primary research books, texts, and trade books for the public. Professor Wolfram is vitally concerned with the application of sociolinguistic information to social and educational problems and the dissemination of knowledge about dialects to the public. In this connection, he has been involved in the production of more than 10 regional and national television documentaries on dialect diversity. He also has directed the construction of several museum exhibits on language and developed the first state-endorsed dialect awareness curriculum for the middle schools in North Carolina, Voices of North Carolina. Wolfram is former President of the Linguistic Society of America as well as the American Dialect Society. He is the recipient of the Holladay Medal at NC State University, the NC Humanities Council’s Caldwell Laureate (2008-09), and the Language, Linguistics, and the Public Award by the Linguistic Society of America (2010).


Recent Publications


 Wolfram, Walt (with Janneke Van Hofwegen, Mary Kohn, Jennifer Renn) Forthcoming. Trajectories of development in AAE: The first 17 years. In Sonja L. Lanehart (ed.), Proceedings of the Conference on African American Language in Popular Culture: Intersections among Language, Education, Music, Media, and Sports

Wolfram, Walt, forthcoming. Language awareness in community perspective: Obligations and opportunity. In Robert Bayley, Richard Cameron, and Ceil Lucas (eds.), Handbook of Sociolinguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Wolfram, Walt (in press). Changing misconceptions about dialect diversity: The role of public education. CAL Digest. Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics.

Wolfram, Walt (with John R. Rickford). Formal instruction in oral language (as a second dialect) National Research Council Workshop on Language Development. California: National Academy of Science.

 Wolfram, Watl. forthcoming. The supra-regional development of African American Vernacular English. In Arthur K. Spears, James de Jongh, Carole M. Berotte Joseph (eds.), Language and African Diaspora Culture

Wolfram, Walt. forthcoming. LAVIS: A review and critique. In Michael D. Picone and Catherine Evans Davies (eds.), Language Variety in the South: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives.Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press.

Wolfram, Walt. forthcoming. Sociolinguistic engagement in community perspective. In Michael D. Picone and Catherine Evans Davies (eds.), Language Variety in the South: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press

Wolfram, Walt. forthcoming. Studying vernacular dialects. In Marianna Di Paolo and Arthur K. Spears (eds.), Increasing Language Diversity in Linguistic Courses: Practical Approaches and Materials. Columbus: Ohio State University Press.

Wolfram, Walt. Foreword to Speaking of Alabama. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press.

Wolfram, Walt. The dynamic development of socioethnic varieties of English in North America. In Dani Schreier and Marianna Hundt (eds.), English as a Contact Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wolfram, Walt. forthcoming. African American Speech in Southern Appalachia. In Nancy Hayward and Amy Clark (eds.), Appalachian Englishes. University of Kentucky Press.

Wolfram, Walt, Mary Kohn, and Erin Callahan-Price. forthcoming. Southern-bred Hispanic English: An emerging variety. Cascadilla


Wolfram, Walt. 2010. The African American English canon in sociolinguistics. In Michael Adams and Anne Curzan (eds.), Contours of English and English Language Studies. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Wolfram, Walt. 2010. Field methods. In Ruth Wodak, Barbara Johnstone, and Paul Kerswill (eds.), Handbook on Sociolinguistics. Sage Publications. 296-312.

Wolfram, Walt. 2010. Epilogue to Valuable Voices: Understanding English Language Variation in American Schools. New York: Columbia University Press. 151-52.

 Wolfram, Walt. 2010. Collaborative issues in language variation documentaries. Language and Linguistic Compass 4(9):293-303.

 Wolfram, Walt. 2010. Celebrating Linguistic Diversity. Wheaton Alumni Magazine Spring, p. 51.

 Van Hofwegen, Janneke, and Walt Wolfram. 2010. Coming of age in African American English: A longitudinal study. Journal of Sociolinguistics 14:27-52.



Wolfram, Walt. 2009. African American English and the Public Interest. In Jo Anne Kleifgen and George Bond, eds. The Languages of African and the Diaspora: Educating for Language Awareness. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters. 249-69.

Wolfram, Walt. 2009 Caldwell Award Acceptance Speech. North Carolina Conversations: A Publication of the North Carolina Humanities Council (Winter 2009): 4-5.

Wolfram, Walt. 2009. Dialect awareness, cultural literacy, and the public interest. In Marcia Farr, Lisya Seloni, and Juyoung Song, eds. Ethnolinguistic Diversity and Education: Language, Literacy, and Culture.           New York/London: Routledge. 129-49.

Kendall, Tyler and Walt Wolfram. 2009. Local and external language standards in African American English. Journal of English Linguistics 37:5-30.



Wolfram, Walt. 2008. Language diversity and the public Interest. In Kendall King, Natalie Schilling-Estes, Jia Jackie Lou, and Barbara Soukup (eds.), Sustaining Linguistic Diversity: Endangered and Minority Language and Language Varieties. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press. 187-202.

Wolfram, Walt. 2008. Diffusion. In Patrick C. Hogan (ed.), Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language Sciences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wolfram, Walt. 2008. When islands lose dialects: The case of the Ocracoke Brogue. Shima: The International Journal for Research on Island Cultures 2:1-13.

Wolfram, Walt. 2008. American English since 1865. In Harulo Momma and Michael Matto, eds., Blackwell Companion to the History of the English Language. Malden/Oxford. Blackwell. 254-73.


Wolfram, Walt, Jeffrey Reaser, and Charlotte Vaughn. 2008. Operationalizing linguistic gratuity: from principle to practice. Linguistic and Language Compass 3.1109-34.

Wolfram, Walt, and Natalie Schilling-Estes. 2008. An interview with Walt Wolfram. Journal of English Linguistics 36:254-71.


Wolfram, Walt. Ethnic varieties. In Carmen Llamas, Louise Mullany, Peter Stockwell (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Sociolinguistics. Routledge. 77-83.

 Wolfram, Walt. 2007. African American English. In Braj B. Kachru, Yamuna Kachru, & Cecil L. Nelson (eds.), Handbook of World Englishes. Malden/Oxford: Blackwell. 328-45.

 Wolfram, Walt. 2007. The North Carolina Language and Life Project. In Michael Montgomery and Ellen Johnson. (eds.). Language, in The Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. Oxford: University of Mississippi Press. 159-61.

Wolfram, Walt. 2007. The Outer Banks. In Michael Montgomery (ed.). Language, in The Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. Oxford: University of Mississippi Press. 104-5.

Wolfram, Walt. 2007. Sociolinguistic myths in the study of African American English. Linguistic and Language Compass 2: 292-313.



  • Ph.D. in Linguistics from Hartford Seminary Founation, 1969
  • M.A in Linguistics from Hartford Seminary Foundation, 1966
  • B.A. in Anthropology (Greek) from Wheaton College (IL), 1963