Dr Walt Wolfram

Picture of Dr Walt Wolfram

Named Distinguished Univ Professor


Walt Wolfram is William C. Friday Distinguished University Professor 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 and published more than 20 books and over 300 articles. Over the last two decades, he and his students have conducted more than 3,500 sociolinguistic interviews with residents of North Carolina and beyond, primarily under funding from the National Science Foundation. In addition to his research interests, Professor Wolfram is particularly interested in the application of sociolinguistic information to the public, including the production of a number of television documentaries, the construction of museum exhibits, and the development of an innovative formal and informal materials related to language diversity. He has received numerous awards, including the North Carolina Award (the highest award given to a citizen of North Carolina), Caldwell Humanities Laureate from the NC Humanities Council, the Holladay Medal at NC State, and the Linguistics, Language and the Public Award from the Linguistic Society of America. He has also served as President of the Linguistic Society of America, the American Dialect Society, and the Southeastern Conference on Linguistics. 


Recent Publications


Reaser, Jeffrey, Carolyn Adger, Walt Wolfram, and Donna Christian. forthcoming (2017) Dialects at School: Educating Linguistically Diverse Students. New York: Routledge.

Wolfram, Walt (with Mary Kohn, Jennifer Renn, Janneke Van Hofwegen, Charles Farrington). (forthcoming, in progress) The Longitudinal Development of African American English in the Early Lifespan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wolfram, Walt and Natalie Schilling. 2016.  American English: Dialects and Variation. Third edition. Cambridge/Oxford: Wiley/Blackwell. Pp. 436

Wolfram, Walt and Jeffrey Reaser. 2014. Talkin’ Tar Heel: Voices of North Carolina. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Pp. 331.

Books Edited

Myrick, Caroline and Walt Wolfram (eds.) forthcoming. The Five-Minute Linguist. 3rd Edition. Sheffield (England): Equinox. 

Reaser, Jeffrey, Eric Wilbanks, Karissa Wojcek, and Walt Wolfram (eds.) forthcoming.  2018. Language Variety in the New South: Contemporary Perspectives on Change and Variation. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.



_____. forthcoming. The supra-regional development of African American Vernacular English. In Arthur Spears (ed.), Black Language in the English-Speaking Caribbean and the U.S., ed. by Arthur K. Spears. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books/Rowman & Littlefield.

 ____. (forthcoming (2018) Foreword to Thomas Nunnally (ed.). Speaking of Alabama: The History, Diversity, Function, and Change of Language. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press.

 ____. (forthcoming) Ask a linguist. In Introduction to Linguistics and Human Behavior. Kendall Hunt.

 Wolfram, Walt and Jon Forrest (forthcoming). Dialects and dialectology. In Jack K. Damico and Martin J. Ball (eds.) The Sage Encyclopedia of Human Communication Sciences and Disorders. New York: Sage Publications.

 Reaser, Jeffrey and Walt Wolfram (forthcoming) What linguists are doing to try to help teachers teach about language. In Carolyn Adger and Donna Christian (eds.), What Teachers Need to Know about Language. CAL Series on Language Education. London: Multilingual Matters.

 Wolfram, Walt and Karen Eisenhauer (forthcoming 2018) Implicit Bias and sociolinguistic justice. In The Routledge Companion to the Work of John Rickford. New York: Routledge.:

Forrest, Jon and Walt Wolfram (forthcoming) The status of (ING) in African American Language: A quantitative analysis of social factors and internal constraints. American Speech 93: (Special Issue: Tyler Kendall and Charlie Farrington (eds.), Exploring African American Language in the Nation’s Capital: Studies with the Corpus of Regional African American Language)

Wolfram, Walt (forthcoming) Language awareness in education: A linguist’s response. In Chris Palmer and Michelle Devereaux (eds.) Teachers' and Linguists' Perspectives: Practical Strategies for Teaching Language Ideology and Language Variation. New York: Routledge.


Wolfram, Walt.  2018, Changing ethnolinguistic perceptions in the American South. American Speech 93:XX

 Stephany Brett Dunstan, Amanda Eads, Audrey Jaeger and Walt Wolfram. 2018. The Importance of Graduate Student Engagement in a Campus Language Diversity Initiative. Journal of English Linguistics

 Wolfram, Walt, Danica Cullinan, and Neal Hutcheson. 2018. Negotiating language presentation: Linguists, communities, and producers. In Jeffrey Reaser, Eric Wilbanks, Karissa Wojcek, and Walt Wolfram (eds.), Language Variety in the South IV: The New South. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 358-374.

 Wolfram, Walt. 2018) On the (in)significance of facts in sociolinguistic engagement. Language in Society 47(3):374-377.

 Digital article:

Wolfram, Walt. 2018. “6 Expressions Say it all: Language variation in the Tar Heel State. NC Knowledge Lists. NC State News tps://news.ncsu.edu/2018/06/six-nc-expressions/ June, 2018


Wolfram, Walt and Caroline Myrick. 2017. Linguistic commonality in the English of the African Diaspora: Evidence from lesser-known varieties of English. In Language Contact in Africa and the African Diaspora in the Americas. In honor of John V. Singler, by Cutler, Cecelia, Zvjezdana Vrzić and Philipp Angermeyer (eds.) [CLL 53]. Philadelphia: John Benjamins. Pp. 142-75.

 Van Hofwegen, Janneke and Walt Wolfram. 2017. On the utility of composite indices in longitudinal language study. In Suzanne Evans Wagner and Isabelle Buchstaller (eds.), Panel Studies of Variation and Change. Routledge Studies in Language Change Series. London: Routledge, Pp. 93-120.



Wolfram, Walt, Caroline Myrick, Michael J. Fox, and Jon Forrest). 2016. Linguistic variation in the speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. American Speech 9:269-300.

 Kendall, Tyler, and Walt Wolfram. 2016. Engagement through data management and preservation: The North Carolina Language and Life Project and the Sociolinguistic Archive and Analysis Project. In Karen Corrigan and Adam Mearns (eds.), Creating and Digitizing Language Corpora, Volume 3: Databases for Public Engagement. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 133-157.

 Wolfram, Walt. 2016. Public sociolinguistic education in the United States: A proactive, comprehensive program. In Robert Lawson and Dave Sayers (eds.) Sociolinguistic Research: Impact and Application. New York: Routledge, 88-107.

 Wolfram, Walt. 2016. “Hoi Toid on the Outer Banks” Tar Heel Jr. Historian (Spring 2016): 10-11,21.

 Digital Article:

“Celebrating the Sociolinguistic Significance of Martin Luther King, Jr.” Language Log (1500 words). http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/. January 18, 2016.


Wolfram, Walt and Mary E. Kohn. 2015. The regional development of African American English. In Sonja Lanehart (ed.), The Oxford Handbook on African American Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 140-59.

 Wolfram, Walt. 2015. The Sociolinguistic construction of African American Language. In Sonja Lanehart (ed.), The Oxford Handbook on African American Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 338-52.

 _____. 2015. Conclusion: Perspective, achievements, and remaining challenges. In Michael D. Picone and Catherine Evans Davies (eds.), New Perspectives on Language Variety in the South: Historical and Contemporary Approaches, ed. by Michael D. Picone and Catherine Evans Davies. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 748-70.

 ____ . 2015. Sociolinguistic engagement in community perspective. In Michael D. Picone and Catherine Evans Davies (eds.), New Perspectives on Language Variety in the South: Historical and Contemporary Approaches, ed. by Michael D. Picone and Catherine Evans Davies. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press. 715-30.

Review of Michael Ellis, North Carolina English, 1861-1865: A Guide and Glossary (University of Tennessee Press, 2013). In North Carolina Historical Review. January, 2015, Issue: Raleigh: NC Publishing Office.

 Dunstan, Stephany Brett, Walt Wolfram, and Audrey J. Jaeger, and Rebecca E. Crandall. 2015. Educating the educated: Language diversity in the university backyard. American Speech 90: 266-80.


Wolfram, Walt. 2014. Vernacular dialects of English. In Marianna Di Paolo and Arthur K. Spears (eds.), Language and Dialects in the U.S. Focus on Diversity and Linguistics. New York: Routledge. 85-100.

 ____. 2014. Integrating language variation into TESOL: Challenges from English globalization. In Ahmar Mahboob and Lestlie Barratt (eds.), Englishes in Multilingual Contexts: Language Variation and Education. London: Springer. Pp. 15-31.

 Wolfram, Walt, Jaclyn Daugherty, and Danica Cullinan. 2014, On the (In)Significance of English language variation: Cherokee English and Lumbee English in comparative perspective. University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics 20.2 (Selected Papers from NWAV 42). Article 22:197-208.


Wolfram, Walt. 2013. Language awareness in community perspective: Obligations and opportunity. In Robert Bayley, Richard Cameron, and Ceil Lucas (eds.), Handbook of Sociolinguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Pp. 754-72.

 ____. 2013. 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. Pp. 106-130.

 ____. 2013. How to uncover linguistic variables. In Christine Mallinson, Becky Childs, and Gerard Van Herk (eds.), Data Collection in Sociolinguistics. New York: Routledge. Pp.21-24.

 ____. 2013. African American Speech in Southern Appalachia. In Nancy Hayward and Amy Clark (eds.), Talking Appalachian: Voice, Identity, and Community. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press. Pp. 81-93.

 ____. 2013. Foreword: African American, Creole, and Other Englishes in Education (ed. John Rickford, Julie Sweetland, Angela Rickford, and Thomas Grano). New York: Routledge and NCTE. Pp. vii-x.

 ____. 2013. Sound effects: Challenging language prejudice in the classroom. Teaching Tolerance 43 (Spring 2013):29-31.

 ____. 2013. Community commitment and social responsibility. In JK Chambers and Natalie Schilling (eds.), Handbook of Language Variation and Change, 2nd edn. Malden/Cambridge: Wiley/Blackwell. Pp. 557-76.


Wolfram, Walt. 2012. Connecting with the public. In the Profession.  Journal of English Linguistics 40:111-17.

Wolfram, Walt. 2012. What is ‘speaking in tongues’? In E.M. Rickerson and Barry Hilton (eds.). The 5-Minute Linguist: Bite-sized Essays on Language and Linguistics. Second edition. Bristol: Equinox. 106-09.

 Wolfram, Walt. 2012. Why do American Southerners talk that way? In E.M. Rickerson and Barry Hilton (eds.). The 5-Minute Linguist: Bite-sized Essays on Language and Linguistics. Second edition. Bristol: Equinox. 132-35.

 Wolfram, Walt. 2012. Are dialects dying? In E.M. Rickerson and Barry Hilton (eds.). The 5-Minute Linguist: Bite-sized Essays on Language and Linguistics. Second edition. Bristol: Equinox. 196-99.


Wolfram, Walt, Mary Kohn, and Erin Callahan-Price. 2011. Southern-bred Hispanic English: An emerging variety. In Jim Michnowicz and Robin Dodsworth (eds.), Cascadilla:Selected Proceedings of the 5th workshop on Spanish Sociolinguistics 5:1-13.

 Wolfram, Walt. 2011. 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. 34-52.

 Pick, Hannah, Walt Wolfram, and Jacqueline Lopez. 2011. Indigenous-language students from Spanish-speaking countries: Educational approaches. Heritage Briefs. Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics. 1-4.

 McGowan, Thomas, and Walt Wolfram. 2011. Neal Hutcheson: Maker of Documentaries on North Carolina Folklife and Language. North Carolina Folklore Journal 58(2):9-13

 Wolfram, Walt 2011. Changing misconceptions about dialect diversity: The role of public education. CAL Digest. Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics. 1-6 (February)

 Wolfram, Walt. 2011. Field methods. In Ruth Wodak, Barbara Johnstone, and Paul Kerswill (eds.), Handbook on Sociolinguistics. Sage Publications. 296-312.

Wolfram, Walt. 2011. Review of Nancy C. Dorian, Investigating variation: The effects of social organization and social setting. Language 87:904-8.


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

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

 _____. 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.



  • 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