The Linguistics Behind Dialects | The Campaign for NC State

Photo courtesy of Danica Cullinan

When we spoke with English secondary education student Jessica Hatcher last year, the ’16 grad reflected on how the scholarships she received afforded her the opportunity to conduct hands-on research and find her passion for linguistics. One year later, we caught up with Hatcher to learn about how she is using her research to educate high school students as she works toward her M.A. in English linguistics.

Can you tell us about your research and the work you are doing with high school students this summer?  

I’m interested in the intersection between sociolinguistics and education. I want to further support equity in our schools through teaching practices that include an understanding of language variation.

The Language Diversity Enrichment Program for high school students is the first of its kind at NC State. It is a week-long educational program designed to promote language awareness and explore dialect diversity in English. We introduce high school students to linguistics and promote inclusion and empathy through education about sociolinguistics.

Language diversity is overlooked, and I want to help high school students learn more about this increasingly relevant aspect of diversity. I view community education and outreach as a vital aspect of research.

How did you become interested in studying linguistics?

I learned about the Language and Life Project from Dr. Jeffrey Reaser at an English Club meeting. I began working as Dr. Reaser’s research assistant, and I transcribed videos of class discussions. As I listened and typed, I wrestled with ideas I had never considered. All my life I had thought that the people around me, myself included, spoke “bad English.” But learning about sociolinguistics reframed my understanding. As I pursued a minor in linguistics, I became increasingly interested in the field and I decided to pursue a master’s degree. My experiences speak to the opportunities…

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