Episode 74 (Folk Linguistics)

Dennis Preston

Welcome to the March 2024 episode of In a Manner of Speaking, in which Paul discusses folk linguistics with dialectologist Dennis Preston, professor emeritus at Oklahoma State University and former president of the American Dialect Society.

Often defined as the study or examination of language from a non-professional, non-academic, or uninformed perspective, folk linguistics can yield fascinating insights into how the average person perceives language, dialects, and accents. Paul and Dennis discuss this topic in detail, including the truths, misconceptions, and fallacies related to our understanding of the spoken word and regional speech.

Dennis Preston is an adjunct professor of linguistics at the University of Kentucky; regents professor emeritus at Oklahoma State University, where he was director of research on the dialects of English in Oklahoma and co-director of the Center for Oklahoma Studies; and distinguished professor emeritus at Michigan State University. He has been a visiting scholar at Osaka Shoin Women’s College and the universities of Canterbury (New Zealand), Hawaii, Arizona, Michigan, Copenhagen, Colorado, Indiana University Southeast, SUNY Oswego, Berkeley, Chicago, Kentucky, UC Davis, and UMass Amherst. He was Fulbright researcher in Poland and Brazil.

Dennis was director of the 2003 Linguistic Society of America Institute and president of the American Dialect Society, and has served on the executive boards of those societies and others, as well as the editorial boards of numerous journals and panels of granting agencies. He is a member of the advisory committees of several international research projects and is invited frequently for presentations in both academic and popular venues.

Professor Preston’s work focuses on sociolinguistics and dialectology, including four recent NSF grants, two in folk linguistics and two in language variation and change. His most recent book-length publications are Folk Linguistics (2000) with Nancy Niedzielski,  A Handbook of Perceptual Dialectology, Volume II (2002) with Daniel Long, Needed Research in American Dialects (2003), Linguistic Diversity in Michigan and Ohio (2005) with Brian Joseph and Carol G. Preston, Variation in Indigenous Languages (2009) with James Stanford, A Reader in Sociophonetics (2010) with Nancy Niedzielski, Responses to Language Varieties (2015) with Alexei Prikhodkine, and Changing Perceptions of Southernness (American Speech 93:3&4, Fall-Winter 2018) with Jennifer Cramer.

He is an Erskine Fellow of the University of Canterbury (New Zealand) and a fellow of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and the Linguistic Society of America, and he was awarded the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Polish Republic in 2004.

For a fascinating collection of Dennis Preston’s interviews, go here. And visit OKState.edu.

More with Professor Preston:


(Bach’s Cello Suite #1 in G Major BMV 1007 Prelude (by Ivan Dolgunov) is courtesy of Jamendo Licensing.)