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New Film Shows the Rich History of African American Speech

The Language and Life Project of North Carolina State University has promoted research and education about the languages and dialects of North Carolina and the United States for more than 20 years. They've produced wonderful films on the "hoi toide" dialect of the Outer Banks (The Carolina Brogue), the Cherokee community's fight to save their language (First Language), and the language of southern Appalachia (Mountain Talk), among others. Their new film, Talking Black in America, is an in-depth look at one of the most politically charged and misunderstood varieties of American English.

Executive producer Walt Wolfram, a linguist who has studied the subject for more than 50 years, says "there has never been a documentary devoted exclusively to African American speech, even though it’s the most researched—and controversial—collection of dialects in the United States and has contributed more than any other variety to American English.” The film aims to address important issues like linguistic profiling and discrimination while also showing that "understanding African-American speech is absolutely critical to understanding the way we talk today.”

Talking Black in America will premiere at 7 p.m. on March 23 at the James B. Hunt Jr. Library on North Carolina State’s Centennial Campus. Admission is free and open to the public. There will be public showings at other campuses through the spring.

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