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Department of English

Kansas Speaks Project

The Kansas Speaks Project documents language variation and change throughout the Great Plains region. While most people think of Kansas accents as a stalwart of standardness, Kansas has always been linguistically vibrant.

From the array of Native American languages that continue to exist in our state to the German spoken by immigrants in the 19th century and the languages of our most recent newcomers, our linguistic diversity tells the story of the people and cultures that make this this state such a rich reflection of American heritage. Further, new evidence suggests that there are a host of sound changes rolling across the prairies.

Our lab seeks to document the voices of Kansas, both young and old, to learn how Kansas fits into the many sound changes found throughout the U.S. 


Are you interested in participating? Consider lending your voice to the project. Or, maybe you or your community would like to learn more about linguistics and language in Kansas?  Contact Mary Kohn at kohn@ksu.edu to participate in an interview that will help us document Kansas speech or to request a lecture on language in Kansas.


See what we've been up to!


The Kansas Speaks Project seeks to create a better understanding of how children's accents change during the school years, and how cultural geographic factors interface with trajectories of language change. The broad goal of this type of research is to provide insight into the intersection of language and society in order to understand how and why language changes over time. A more immediate goal for such research is to increase understanding of language diversity, which will hopefully assist educators, speech pathologists, and test designers in creating equitable learning environments, interventions, and assessment tools. If you are a K-State student who is passionate about language, consider joining our efforts! Contact Mary Kohn at kohn@ksu.edu.


Interested in learning more? Check out some of our undergraduate course offerings in sociolinguistics:

ENGL476 "American English"

Explore the past, present, and future of linguistic diversity in the United States.  Topics include regional, social, and ethnic variation, language ideologies, intersections of language and power, and analysis of language variation. Students get hands-on experience with linguistic analysis using such sources as Disney films, stand-up comedy, and literary texts.

ENGL430 "Structure of English"

This course introduces the study of linguistics with a focus on the English language. We use hands-on methods to explore sounds, lexicon, grammatical structure, and social variation.

ENGL 490 "Development of the English Language"

This course takes students on a 1,500 year tour of the English language. We will begin by tracing a “family tree” for English. We will then consider the socio-cultural and linguistic factors that changed the English language, ranging from Viking invasions to the invention of the printing press. Through this process, we’ll learn when and why prescriptive grammar rules became imposed on the English language.  Finally, we will explore the rise of English as a global language and the influence of changing technologies and social structures on the English spoken today. Students will practice new concepts through regular homework assignments, participate in active learning activities, and give presentations on regional or global varieties of English.

ENGL210 "Honors Composition: Language and Gender"

Do women really talk more than men? Are men really worse at listening? Is there such a thing as “sounding gay”? Differences between women‘s and men’s speech have been anecdotally recorded throughout history, and the subject continues to be a popular topic in media ranging from self-help guides to respected newspapers and journals.  In this course we will explore connections between language use and gender identity to investigate the various ways distinct disciplines establish and communicate knowledge. We will critique discussions of “female language” in the media, analyze representations of masculinity, femininity, and sexuality in news reports, movies, and comedy sketches, and use insights from these activities to evaluate primary research on the topic of language and gender.