On the swamps: the politics of language, landscape and Lumbee identity

Record Number: 

Forde, Kathy Roberts. “On the swamps: the politics of language, landscape and Lumbee identity.” The Independent Weekly (Durham, NC) December 6, 2000.


This article focuses on the Lumbee dialect, particularly the nature and impact of research conducted by Dr. Walt Wolfram, a linguist at North Carolina State University who created the North Carolina Language and Life Project 
(www.ncsu.edu/linguistics/lumbee.htm) and has, along with his graduate students, studied Lumbee dialect for six years. Wolfram and his students interviewed over 150 Lumbee speakers and compared their speech to that of Robeson County blacks and whites. They concluded that although few features of Lumbee dialect are found only among the Lumbee, it is definitely a distinct dialect. Wolfram's graduate students found that people in Robeson County could identify Lumbee speakers with 80% accuracy; white students at N.C. State University could readily identify African American and European American speakers--but rarely identified Lumbee speakers. One factor may be that Lumbee people move easily from their own dialect to standard English, preferring to speak their dialect among themselves. There is hope among Lumbee people that Wolfram's research will, by reinforcing the distinctiveness of their culture, aid the tribe's efforts to gain federal recognition.

First Appeared in 1994 Book?: 
Category Tags: 
Publication Type: 
Full text available at this link.