Teachable Moments: Hall covers DARE in Newsweek

I recently stumbled across a Newsweek article by linguist Joan Houston Hall.  It was published earlier this summer and can be found online at: 

 DARE: A Guide to Regional English – Newsweek

Dr. Hall is the chief editor of the Dictionary of American Regional English, and the article looks froward to next year’s completion of the last volume (Slab – Z) while highlighting the misconceptions about language that lead people to believe that regional variation is a thing of the past.  Chief among them (1) the idea that regionalisms are disappearing wholesale from the American linguistic landscape and (2) the idea that teachers and books are primary linguistic influences.

DARE has a number of uses.  Dr. Hall reminds us that forensic linguists, dialect coaches, and medical professionals have found important reasons to consult the dictionary.  I have another use.  It’s probably obvious to others in the field.  (I know it’s listed on the DARE webpage.)  But I’m going to plug it anyway.  DARE is the perfect tool for language teachers to use to make students appreciate (and maybe even embrace) language variation. 

My own experience in the classroom has shown me that no one can resist the stories of Frederick Cassidy and the Word Wagons.  Even those (e.g. William Safire) who try to dictate other people’s language use find the project irresistible, which means there may one day be hope for making people appreciate more controversial areas of language variation.  As language teachers work to address language prejudices,  it’s worth remembering that DARE provides excellent examples of variation that people find non-threatening and entertaining.  After more than 40 years of research, the DARE editorial staff is finally “on to Z!”  What better way to honor this endeavor than to put this project to use for such a noble purpose?

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About LingEducator

Dr. Jaclyn Ocumpaugh received a PhD for her dissertation on regional variation in the acoustics of Mexican American English (Michigan State University, East Lansing). Before that, she received an MA in English/Linguistics from North Carolina State University for her work on the acoustics of /r/--a sound which is highly variable in the English language. Her passion, however, has always been to understand the social implications of language variation. In addition to her work in acoustic sociophonetics, she has worked with rape trial analysis, developed cognitive methods for understanding discourse level variation between men and women, and created sophisticated tools for teaching future educators about the kinds of dialect variation they will find in the classroom. She has taught classes in English, Linguistics, and Education at Old Dominion University, William & Mary, the University of Mary Washington, and Virginia Wesleyan College. She is currently a Post Doctoral Fellow of Learning Sciences and Technologies at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where she is helping to develop models of student engagement in the classroom. She also consults in the private sector.
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