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Professor Emeritus



I am the English Department’s linguist, specializing in the history, structure, and current use of the English language.  Trained in traditional philology, I wrote my dissertation on noun inflection in Old English and for a decade taught the required graduate course in Old English–accounting for my  longstanding interest in Medieval Studies.  Teaching graduate and undergraduate courses in contemporary English grammar and usage led me to sociolinguistics and to the study of the slang vocabulary of college students.  My 1996 book, Slang and Sociability: In-Group Language Among College Students, has become the foundational work on the subject, and my semester-by-semester corpus of Carolina undergraduate slang spanning more than thirty years constitutes a unique record of American English.  My interests in philology and sociolinguistics have come together in my research on language variation in Louisiana, particularly on the dialects of New Orleans and the transition from French to English in the state.  Manuscript materials in the Southern Historical Collection were the foundation of this research and inspired the development of a first year seminar on archival research co-taught for seven years with librarian Laura Brown Hart.  I have taught English as a Second Language to non-native graduate students at Carolina and also spent a marvelous semester teaching English language courses at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.  Having begun my professional life at a time when women faculty were scarce and Women’s Studies non-existent, I have written on sex as a linguistic variable and on the life of folklorist and philologist Louise Pound, founding editor in 1925 of the journal American Speech, now the official peer-reviewed journal of the American Dialect Society and published by Duke University Press.  It was my privilege to serve as Editor of American Speech for ten years and in 2000 to bring out two special issues in Louise Pound’s honor to commemorate its diamond anniversary.  Like Louise Pound, who was the first woman President of the Modern Language Association, I value the opportunities for learning and friendship offered by professional organizations.  I have served as President of the Southeastern Conference on Linguistics (SECOL), the South Atlantic Modern Language Association (SAMLA), the Linguistic Association of Canada and the United States (LACUS), and the American Dialect Society (ADS), and I have recently completed a term on the Executive Committee of the Dictionary Society of North America (DSNA).



1970, PhD Linguistics, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

1967, MA Linguistics, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

1964, BA French, St. Mary’s Dominican College (New Orleans)



  • Slang and Sociability: In-Group Language Among College Students (UNC Press, 1996)
  • “Slang and the A-Curve,” American Speech 92:1 (February 2017), 92-100
  • “American College Student Slang,” Global English Slang: Methodologies and Perspectives. Ed. Julie Coleman. (London: Routledge, 2014), 36-48
  • “Slang,” Language in the U.S.A. Eds. Edward Finegan and John Rickford. (New York: Cambridge UP, 2003), 375-386
  • “French in New Orleans: The Commodification of Language Heritage,” American Speech 84:2 (Summer 2009), 211-215
  • “Food Vocabulary in New Orleans,” Southern Journal of Linguistics 36:1 (Spring 2012), 70-81
  • “Creole in Louisiana,” South Atlantic Review 73:2 (Spring 2008), 39-53
  • “From French to English in Louisiana: the Prudhomme Family’s Story.” New Perspectives on Language Variety in the South: Historical and Contemporary Approaches. Eds. Catherine Davies and Michael Picone. (Tuscaloosa: U. of Alabama Press, 2015), 288-295
  • “English/French Bilingualism in 19th Century Louisiana: A Social Network Analysis.” Studies in the History of the English Language IV: Empirical and Analytical Advances in the Study of English Language Change. Eds. Susan Fitzmaurice and Donka Minkova. (Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2008), 337-355



  • Fellowship, American Council of Learned Societies (1975-76)
  • Mary Turner Lane Award of the Association for Women Faculty and Professionals (UNC-CH), 2015
  • Cor Award, Newman Catholic Student Center (UNC-CH), 2016