Dialect or Deficit? Honoring the Southern Appalachian Dialect Through Scholarship, Storytelling and Literature

Dr. Melinda Richards,
Dr. Suellen Alfred
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This presentation is on the Southern Appalachian dialect and its implications for teaching storytelling and literature in the classroom.

Dr Richards will discuss her research with three-generation families in Del Rio, Tennessee. She will show that Appalachian English, until recently considered resistant to change because of the relative isolation of its speakers, is becoming a moribund dialect. Her research shows cross-generational differences in vowel pronunciation and style-shifting.

Dr Alfred will present personal stories she has gleaned from students and their families in East Tennessee and Western North Carolina, showing how teachers can use similar approaches to encourage their students to bring personal stories from their language communities to class. She will play a story told by Ray Hicks whose Beech Mountain, North Carolina dialect is in danger of dying with him. She will show how Hicks' dialect and stories can be used in the classroom as a way of encouraging young dialect speakers to take pride in their language community.

Both Richards and Alfred will also include audience participation in a humorous Appalachian vocabulary activity in which they will be given a "non-standardized" test of Appalachian phrases to see how well they do with this charming relic dialect.

Members of the audience will be given a list of Southern Appalachian titles that would be appropriate for the high school classroom. Such titles will include but not be limited to such works as Ray Hicks' "Jack Tales", Outer Dark, Robert Morgan's Gap Creek, poems by Jeff Daniel Marion, and the Foxfire series.

Both professors expect that this session will be an appealing blend of scholarship and pedagogy on this dialect, an archaic form of Ulster Scots.

Keywords: Appalachian Dialect, Ulster Scots, Literacy, Storytelling
Stream: Language, Linguistics, Teaching and Learning, Ethnicity, Difference, Identity
Presentation Type: Workshop Presentation in English
Paper: Dialect or Deficit?

Dr. Melinda Richards

Assistant Professor of Communication Disorders, Department of Speech and Theatre, Middle Tennessee State University

Dr Richards is Assistant Professor of Communication Disorders, having joined the communication disorders faculty at Middle Tennessee State University in August 1997 following seven years serving the children of the Putnam County Schools as a speech-language pathologist. Dr Richards is active at the state and national levels of the professions of Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology. She is Past-President of the Tennessee Assn. of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists, a member for six years of the Council of State Association Presidents, and currently serves at the request of the Governor of Tennessee on the Tennessee Board of Communication Sciences and Disorders. She has served the university community as a Senator on the Faculty Senate, and as a Mentor for a student in the McNair Scholars Program, dedicated to the recruitment of undergraduates for graduate and doctoral study. Her research interests include the study of Appalachian English dialect, disorders of the professional voice user, and childhood phonological disorders.

Dr. Suellen Alfred

Professor of English Education, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Tennessee Technological University

Dr Suellen Alfred is Professor of English Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Tennessee Technological University since 1990. She is a co-author of "Teaching Through Stories: Yours, Mine, and Ours", and is presently working on a volume of poetry, to be released in 2006. She has been active at the state and national levels of English Education through memberships in the National Council of Teachers of English and the Tennessee Council of Teachers of English. Dr Alfred has been editor of the Tennessee English Journal, and is presently the editor of "Personal Reading" Column for The English Journal, a national publication. She is an adjudicator of writing samples on several national tests for the Educational Testing Service. Among her many interests is the study of Appalachian English Dialect, from the perspective of promoting literacy among its constituents.

Ref: H05P0517