Baltimore: An Incubator of Linguistic Diversity

I was so honored to give a talk for EduLab, part of the Labs@Light City segment of Baltimore’s 2018 Light City social innovation conference!  In my talk, “Baltimore: An Incubator of Linguistic Diversity,” I discussed how the way Baltimoreans of all stripes talk — including the ways in which we say even just the name of our city — reflects who we are and where we come from. Language in Baltimore is diverse, dynamic, and innovative, and is an identity and cultural resource that we must nurture — especially in our students, who are the voices of the next generation of thinkers, speakers, and writers right here in Baltimore.



Baltimore’s Accents: On Wikipedia

You can read all about language variation in and around Baltimore on the “Baltimore Accent” Wikipedia page, which was edited by several of my students in my Fall 2017 course at UMBC.  The page includes discussion of “Bawlmerese,” the accent traditionally found in White working-class Baltimore neighborhoods. You can watch a video featuring this accent, hosted by the Baltimore Sun. And don’t forget about Baltimore’s Black Vernacular, too! This Baltimore Sun multimedia feature story includes the news article as well as an interactive lexicon and a short video in which I weigh in on language variation in Baltimore’s Black community.

“The Revelatory Power of Language”

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.

“Hold Up, ‘Hon’: Baltimore’s Black Vernacular Youthful, Dynamic, If Less Recognized than ‘Bawlmerese'”

I am honored to be a part of this Baltimore Sun multimedia feature story,“Hold Up, ‘Hon’: Baltimore’s Black Vernacular Youthful, Dynamic, If Less Recognized than ‘Bawlmerese'”, about Baltimore language change. The feature includes the news article as well as a short video in which I weigh in on language variation in the city, plus an interactive lexicon. The feature story with the multimedia components do a wonderful job of illustrating the scope and complexity of language throughout our culturally and linguistically diverse city!

“Voices of UMBC”

I am pleased to share a short film called “Voices of UMBC” that was made entirely by students in my Fall 2015 graduate seminar, “Language in Diverse Schools and Communities.” Our goal in making the short film was to celebrate UMBC’s linguistic diversity and to highlight it as a cultural resource. Everyone who helped make the film, as well as everyone who appears in it, is a UMBC student! Response to the film has been tremendously enthusiastic, from students and faculty on campus to linguists who have praised the film as an example of cutting-edge linguistic outreach/engagement work in higher education. We are very grateful to all of the students who participated in making this film, and we hope you enjoy it!

This project was approved by the UMBC Institutional Review Board, Protocol #Y16CM27049. Video production by Rena and Frankie Cerquetti: and

Yo Said What?

Yo Said What?” In this April 2013 interview on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered and hosted on the NPR Code Switch Blog, Dr. Christine Mallinson talks about Baltimore adolescents’ use of ‘yo’ as a gender-neutral 3rd person singular pronoun–an unusual and interesting linguistic innovation in American English.

Podcasts Featured as Audio Features in the Journal American Speech

The podcast “Welcome to Baltimore, Hon!” was published as an audio feature in the fall 2012 issue of the journal American Speech. As the linguist Allan Metcalf noted in this article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, American Speech often publishes articles that are accessible to the general readership, including this audio feature. “In the past year of American Speech, for example, there have been accessible articles on witness depositions in the Salem witch trials, the difference between swearwords and slang, hon as a distinctive feature of Baltimore speech (“Welcome to Baltimore, Hon!”), and whether Utahns really don’t pronounce the “t” in mountain. There are reviews, and a collection of articles on teaching about dialects, and short notes on matters like the etymology of a word. The Baltimore article is actually an ‘audio feature,’ including a link to interviews with residents of the city. Yes, American Speech now includes speech.”