Talkin' Tar Heel

How Our Voices Tell the Story of North Carolina

By Walt Wolfram, Jeffrey Reaser

352 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 58 halftones, 12 maps, 4 tables, notes, index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-2999-5
    Published: August 2016
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-1437-3
    Published: April 2014
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-4619-8
    Published: April 2014

Buy this Book

For Professors:
Free E-Exam Copies

To purchase online via an independent bookstore, visit

Awards & distinctions

2014 North Caroliniana Book Award, The North Caroliniana Society

Are you considered a "dingbatter," or outsider, when you visit the Outer Banks?

Have you ever noticed a picture in your house hanging a little "sigogglin," or crooked?

Do you enjoy spending time with your "buddyrow," or close friend?

Drawing on over two decades of research and 3,000 recorded interviews from every corner of the state, Walt Wolfram and Jeffrey Reaser's lively book introduces readers to the unique regional, social, and ethnic dialects of North Carolina, as well as its major languages, including American Indian languages and Spanish. Considering how we speak as a reflection of our past and present, Wolfram and Reaser show how languages and dialects are a fascinating way to understand our state’s rich and diverse cultural heritage. The book is enhanced by maps and illustrations and augmented by more than 100 audio and video recordings, which can be found online at

About the Authors

Walt Wolfram is William C. Friday Distinguished Professor of English at North Carolina State University and author of Hoi Toide on the Outer Banks: The Story of the Ocracoke Brogue, among other books.
For more information about Walt Wolfram, visit the Author Page.

Jeffrey Reaser is associate professor of English at North Carolina State University and coauthor of the curriculum Voices of North Carolina: Language and Life from the Atlantic to the Appalachians.
For more information about Jeffrey Reaser, visit the Author Page.


“A scholarly yet readable account. For language lovers, this will be a hoot.” —Wilmington Star News

"The authors delve deeply into nuances of the mother tongue as it's practiced throughout the state." —Raleigh News and Observer

“The most comprehensive merging of linguistics, history, and culture ever assembled on the topic of language, voices, and word usage in the Old North State.” —Journal of the North Carolina Association of Historians

"Talkin' Tar Heel acquaints citizens of North Carolina and beyond with the treasure that is North Carolina's collection of dialects. Many North Carolinians are unaware of at least half the language varieties discussed here: they don't know that Lumbee is a distinct language variety or about the impact of Hispanic English. The book is well written and will give the audience something to think about as well as to enjoy." —Boyd H. Davis, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

“Because of Walt Wolfram's North Carolina Language and Life Project, no other state in the United States has been studied so systematically and thoroughly for its dialects. This book, drawing together individual studies in a way that gives an accessible picture of the entire state to a wide range of readers, is unique and sets high standards for work on other states.” —Connie Eble, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Multimedia & Links

Visit the Talkin' Tar Heel website.

Walt Wolfram was awarded the North Carolina Award, the state's highest civilian honor, for his work in public service. Learn more.