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Why is it important to learn about and study language?

In this short podcast, “The Revelatory Power of Language,” which I produced for the Maryland Humanities Council’s “Humanities Connection” series, I talk about how language differences occur naturally and are part of how we define ourselves, individually as well as socially. Whether we drink soda or pop, whether we pronounce aunt as “ant” or “ahnt,” or “Baltimore” as Bawlmer or Baldamor, whether we use isn’t or ain’t, language tells us something about who we are as speakers of the ever-changing English language.


I am the co-author, with Dr. Anne H. Charity Hudley, of Understanding English Language Variation in U.S. Schools (2011) and We Do Language: English Language Variation in the Secondary English Classroom (2014). I am also the co-editor of Data Collection in Sociolinguistics: Methods and Applications, with Drs. Becky Childs and Gerard Van Herk (second edition, 2017, Routledge).


Some of my recent chapters have appeared in other book collections, including The Sage Handbook of Sociolinguistics and The Oxford Handbook of Sociolinguistics. In 2012, my entry “Sociolinguistics” was the #1 most-viewed of more than 50 bibliographies in the Linguistics division of Oxford Bibliographies.



My colleague Dr. Anne H. Charity Hudley and I recently completed a three-year NSF sponsored research project, “Assessing the Results of Sociolinguistic Engagement with K-12 STEM Education in Maryland and Virginia Public and Independent Schools.” We studied how language plays a role in the educational challenges that can affect culturally and linguistically diverse students in STEM classrooms, focusing on the academic experiences of African-American students.

During the three-year grant, we worked with K-12 STEM educators in the Baltimore and Richmond areas to study how these educators learn from professional development workshops on language variation and integrate pedagogy and assessment techniques into their classroom. We worked to figure out what sociolinguistic challenges are being faced by their students and what resources teachers and students need to be able to face those challenges. We also developed a website for STEM K-12 educators to share our findings and resources. We gratefully acknowledge the support of the NSF and the Developmental & Learning Sciences Program in funding this project.

Read more about the project through the links below:

The project was approved by the William and Mary Human Subjects Committee and the UMBC Institutional Review Board. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number 1050938/ 1051056. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF.


My CV provides a complete list of my publications and other research-related activities. Please contact me at for more information.

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