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Linguist Walt Wolfram, a professor at North Carolina State University says, “The Lumbee English dialect bears the imprint of the early colonization by the English, Highland Scots, and Scots-Irish. Moreover, Lumbee American Indians’ speech is distinctly different from their Anglo-American and African American neighbors.” Lumbee English, it is said, unites the tribe and is so distinctive that tribal members can pick each other out, based solely on the spoken word. What, then, is Lumbee English?

Learning Outcomes

Students will:

  • become familiar with the concepts of language and dialect.
  • explore the ways in which language changes as different peoples come into contact with one another.
  • understand the origins of the Lumbee dialect of English.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

45 minutes


Technology resources

  • overhead with prepared transparency of language examples or multimedia projector
  • computer with Internet access and QuickTime
  • LCD projector


Teacher begins with a brainstorming session on what makes one group of people different from another. What distinguishes one Indian group from another? The discussion should lead to customs, and, of course, language.


  1. The teacher explains that Lumbee English is English, but a dialect.
  2. The teacher defines dialect and gives examples of it.
  3. The teacher plays segments from the PBS series and helps students understand what is being said.
  4. The teacher leads a discussion about which words/phrases are similar to those students use and why the students would share wording with the people of Robeson County.
  5. The teacher explains that since the Lumbee interacted with settlers and other tribal groups, a different set of words became part of the Lumbee lexicon. The Lumbees worked and lived in and around tribes who used the three major language groups: Algonquin, Siouan and Iroquoian. The Lumbee language contains offshoots of all of these.
  6. The teacher shows students the “Vocabulary Words in Native American Languages: Lumbee Croatan” and allows them to make comparison of those words to similar words they use. The teacher does the same with “Vocabulary Words in the Algonquian Language Family,” allowing students to compare the tribal words for similarities. This should be done in pairs using a T-Chart.
  7. As a wrap up, the teacher reviews with students the idea of Lumbee English and its possible origins.


Completion of the T-Chart.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Social Studies (2010)
      • Grade 4

        • 4.C.1 Understand the impact of various cultural groups on North Carolina. 4.C.1.1 Explain how the settlement of people from various cultures affected the development of regions in North Carolina (languages, foods and traditions). 4.C.1.2 Explain how the artistic...
      • Grade 8

        • 8.C.1 Understand how different cultures influenced North Carolina and the United States. 8.C.1.1 Explain how exploration and colonization influenced Africa, Europe and the Americas (e.g. Columbian exchange, slavery and the decline of the American Indian populations)....

North Carolina curriculum alignment

English Language Arts (2004)

Grade 4

  • Goal 3: The learner will make connections with text through the use of oral language, written language, and media and technology.
    • Objective 3.01: Respond to fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama using interpretive, critical, and evaluative processes by:
      • analyzing the impact of authors' word choice and context.
      • examining the reasons for characters' actions.
      • identifying and examining characters' motives.
      • considering a situation or problem from different characters' points of view.
      • analyzing differences among genres.
      • making inferences and drawing conclusions about characters, events and themes.
    • Objective 3.02: Analyze characters, events, and plots from different selections and cite supporting evidence
    • Objective 3.03: Consider the ways language and visuals bring characters to life, enhance plot development, and produce a response.

Grade 8

  • Goal 1: The learner will use language to express individual perspectives through analysis of personal, social, cultural, and historical issues.
    • Objective 1.02: Analyze expressive materials that are read, heard, and viewed by:
      • monitoring comprehension for understanding of what is read, heard, and/or viewed.
      • reviewing the characteristics of expressive works.
      • determining the importance of literary effects on the reader/viewer/listener.
      • making connections between works, self and related topics.
      • drawing inferences.
      • generating a learning log or journal.
      • maintaining an annotated list of works that are read or viewed, including personal reactions.
      • taking an active role in and/or leading formal/informal book/media talks.
    • Objective 1.03: Interact in group activities and/or seminars in which the student:
      • shares personal reactions to questions raised.
      • gives reasons and cites examples from text in support of expressed opinions.
      • clarifies, illustrates, or expands on a response when asked to do so, and asks classmates for similar expansion.

Social Studies (2003)

Grade 4

  • Goal 1: The learner will apply the five themes of geography to North Carolina and its people.
    • Objective 1.02: Describe and compare physical and cultural characteristics of the regions.
  • Goal 2: The learner will examine the importance of the role of ethnic groups and examine the multiple roles they have played in the development of North Carolina.
    • Objective 2.03: Describe the similarities and differences among people of North Carolina, past and present.
    • Objective 2.04: Describe how different ethnic groups have influenced culture, customs and history of North Carolina.
  • Goal 4: The learner will analyze social and political institutions in North Carolina such as government, education, religion, and family and how they structure society, influence behavior, and respond to human needs.
    • Objective 4.01: Assess and evaluate the importance of regional diversity on the development of economic, social, and political institutions in North Carolina.
  • Goal 5: The learner will examine the impact of various cultural groups on North Carolina.
    • Objective 5.01: Explain different celebrated holidays, special days, and cultural traditions in North Carolina communities.
    • Objective 5.03: Describe and compare the cultural characteristics of regions within North Carolina and evaluate their significance.

Grade 8

  • Goal 1: The learner will analyze important geographic, political, economic, and social aspects of life in the region prior to the Revolutionary Period.
    • Objective 1.01: Assess the impact of geography on the settlement and developing economy of the Carolina colony.
    • Objective 1.02: Identify and describe American Indians who inhabited the regions that became Carolina and assess their impact on the colony.
    • Objective 1.04: Evaluate the impact of the Columbian Exchange on the cultures of American Indians, Europeans, and Africans.
    • Objective 1.07: Describe the roles and contributions of diverse groups, such as American Indians, African Americans, European immigrants, landed gentry, tradesmen, and small farmers to everyday life in colonial North Carolina, and compare them to the other colonies.
  • Goal 5: The learner will evaluate the impact of political, economic, social, and technological changes on life in North Carolina from 1870 to 1930.
    • Objective 5.03: Describe the social, economic, and political impact of migration on North Carolina.