What's 'West Virginia Speak'? One Project Works to Map the State's Dialect

Jun 12, 2015

A professor of linguistics and English at WVU is working to map West Virginia’s dialects and accents.  Kirk Hazen was in Wyoming County earlier this week, collecting interviews from natives.


Jordan Lovejoy, a Pineville native and one of Hazen's recent research assistants, assisted with the recording sessions.

Lovejoy and her English professor, Kirk Hazen, sit on the other end of the table asking most of the questions. Hazen and his students have collected more than 185 interviews across West Virginia since 1998. He’s the director of the West Virginia Dialect Project.

"I study language variation both dialects today and how language has changed over time," Hazen said. 

Hazen says he’s hoping to show people how language works. It’s no secret that Appalachians often carry a marked accent. Hazen says another part of this project is to counteract the negative stereotype that often comes with southern or Wyoming County drawl.

Hazen says the project also builds lessons for local schools to teach students that there are a variety of accents and dialects throughout the state.

Hear more from Kirk Hazen and voices across Appalachia on this week's episode of Inside Appalachia.