Language in Baltimore

Why is it important to learn about and study language in society?

Language is one of our most basic human characteristics—using language is something we all do, all the time, every day. But there isn’t just one linguistic code that we use. Rather, language is a nuanced, complex social tool, naturally evolving over time and changing for different circumstances. Research on the English language examines how various segments of society use words, usages, and pronunciations in ways that reflect the cultures and identities of their speakers.

In Baltimore, the language we hear tells us about our history as a city and reflects the diversity of the people who live here. 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 the word aunt as “ant” or “ahnt,” the word “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.


Photo from 2018 Labs@Light City, Baltimore


Here are a few links about language variation in Baltimore:

In Spring 2011, my “Language in Diverse Schools and Communities” graduate seminar (offered through the Language, Literacy, and Culture Program at UMBC) conducted research with city residents as well as linguistic experts, and produced four podcasts on topics related to language in Baltimore. These podcasts also help uncover and share the linguistic charm of Charm City:

There is much yet to be learned about the accents, dialects, varieties, and languages found in Baltimore, Maryland.  Thanks for visiting this site. Please leave comments and let us know what you think about language in Baltimore!

Dr. Christine Mallinson
Language, Literacy & Culture Program
University of Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC)

The views expressed on this blog are mine and these students’ alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of UMBC.  The fieldwork conducted for these projects was approved by the UMBC Institutional Review Board:  Protocols #Y11CM27127, #Y11CM27125, #Y11CM27126, and Y10CM27129.  All of the music clips and the sound effects used in these podcasts were obtained from and, unless otherwise indicated in the podcast credits.

1 Comment

  1. Pronounced SE Baltimore:

    Baltimore (bal da mor)

    Canton (can in)

    Highlandtown (hul lin town)

    Water (wooder)

    Sink (zink)

    You sometimes sound like jew

    You ploural (yous and sometimes jews)

    Harbor (har ber)

    City (cid dee)

    All names always normally shorten like Harry be harr, Marry be mear, Jenny be jen, Peggy be peg, etc.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s