The University of Wisconsin Press

Language & Linguistics / Ethnic Studies / Wisconsin

Wisconsin Talk
Linguistic Diversity in the Badger State
Edited by Thomas Purnell, Eric Raimy,
and Joseph Salmons

Languages and Folklore of the Upper Midwest
Joseph Salmons and James P. Leary, Series Editors

Yah, it’s true! Wisconsin is one of the most linguistically interesting places in North America.

Wisconsin is one of the most linguistically rich places in North America. It has the greatest diversity of American Indian languages east of the Mississippi, including Ojibwe and Menominee from the Algonquian language family, Ho-Chunk from the Siouan family, and Oneida from the Iroquoian family. French place names dot the state’s map. German, Norwegian, and Polish—the languages of immigrants in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—are still spoken by tens of thousands of people, and the influx of new immigrants speaking Spanish, Hmong, and Somali continues to enrich the state’s cultural landscape. These languages and others (Walloon, Cornish, Finnish, Czech, and more) have shaped the kinds of English spoken around the state. Within Wisconsin’s borders are found three different major dialects of American English, and despite the influences of mass media and popular culture, they are not merging—they are dramatically diverging.

An engaging survey for both general readers and language scholars, Wisconsin Talk brings together perspectives from linguistics, history, cultural studies, and geography to illuminate why language matters in our everyday lives. The authors highlight such topics as:
• words distinctive to the state
• how recent and earlier immigrants have negotiated cultural and linguistic challenges
• the diversity of bilingual speakers that enriches our communities
• how maps can convey the stories of language
• the relation of Wisconsin’s Indian languages to language loss worldwide.

“An essential resource for anyone interested in understanding both the uniqueness and diversity of Wisconsin’s cultural heritage and context.”—Robert Ostergren, coeditor of Wisconsin Land and Life

Thomas Purnell
is associ
ate professor of English at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and his research examines the interface between phonetics and phonology with a focus on regional pronunciation. Eric Raimy is associate professor of English language and linguistics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and is coeditor of Contemporary Views on Architecture and Representations in Phonology and Handbook of the Syllable. Joseph Salmons is the Lester W. J. "Smoky" Seifert Professor of Germanic Linguistics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He is author of A History of German: What the Past Reveals about Today's Language and executive editor of Diachronica: International Journal for Historical Linguistics.

For more information on the Englishes spoken in Wisconsin, see the Wisconsin Englishes Project website.


“Very highly recommended for Wisconsin school, community and academic library Language Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists.”
Midwest Book Review

Media & bookseller inquiries regarding review copies, events, and interviews can be directed to the publicity department at or (608) 263-0734. (If you want to examine a book for possible course use, please see our Course Books page. If you want to examine a book for possible rights licensing, please see Rights & Permissions.)

Of Related Interest:
cover of Wisconsin Folklore is yellow and green and covered with old photographs of various people.Wisconsin Folklore
Edited by James P. Leary
"A readable, diverse, informative, and well-chosen anthology of essays on Wisconsin folklore. . . . Leary is a gifted writer with interesting anecdotes, as well as thorough knowledge of American folklore scholarship."—Jan Harold Brunvand, author of American Folklore


September 2013
LC: 2012037480 PE
196 pp.   6 x 9   43 b/w figs.,
4 tables

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Paper $24.95 t
ISBN 978-0-299-29334-5
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Introducing a new series:

Languages and Folklore of the Upper Midwest
Joseph Salmons and James P. Leary, Series Editors

“An outstanding book that will set the standards for books of its kind. At once accessible—indeed, enjoyable—and both original and fully informed.”

—Michael Adams, editor of American Speech

“Wisconsin Talk successfully conveys the range of languages— both native and immigrant—that have played roles in Wisconsin as well as the impact these languages have had on English in Wisconsin.”
—Erica Benson, University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire


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Updated 12/01/2013

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