Linguists like ourselves are interested in how language works, which means we study language as it is actually used in order to see how it functions for real life speakers. A key step to learning about language variation is the separation of social stigma from linguistic evaluation. Many believe that language variation and change are negative and that dialects are inferior to “standard” forms of language, but linguists see variation as a natural and important quality of language. The WVDP takes this linguistic, descriptive approach in order to study language variation in West Virginia, and uses the knowledge and insights gained to teach about dialects in the Mountain State and the Appalachian region.
Through our work, we have created lesson plans to be used in schools, collaborated with other world dialect projects, and worked to combat prescriptivist views of language. We hope that our studies will have a positive impact on the communities we interact with, and will propagate ideas of dialects as important facets of community and identity.