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Learning outcomes

  • Students will learn about the history, culture, and language of the Outer Banks.
  • Students will understand that Outer Banks speech reflects some older language patterns, but also some new language patterns.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

One hour

Materials needed

Background information

Terms such as brogue, hoi toiders, or even Banker speech refer to a distinct way of speaking that is associated with the Outer Banks. The use of the term brogue in itself is quite interesting since it comes from the Irish term barroq, which means “to grab hold,” especially with reference to the tongue. In many areas of England, the term brogue refers to English spoken with an Irish accent, which perhaps gives a hint of the influence of Irish English in the history of Outer Banks speech. The term hoi toider, on the other hand, refers not to the historical origins of the dialect, but to one of the most noticeable features of Outer Banks speech, the distinct pronunciation of the vowel sound in words like high and tide as “hoi” and “toid.”

At one point in the history of the Outer Banks, the local dialects were noticeable to anyone visiting the islands. This would have certainly been the case during the period when the Wright brothers were visiting the Outer Banks in the early 20th century. Today the language situation is much harder to describe. Visitors to the islands may get very different impressions of island speech depending on whom they talk to and where they go. However, a visit with some longstanding families on the islands or a visit to the region during the quiet of winter makes one realize that a distinct language tradition is still alive on the Outer Banks and will be for some time to come.

While the Outer Banks brogue is still alive, it will change. We expect the speech to change because of tourism and non-islanders moving to the Outer Banks. The local speech varieties, therefore, are difficult to describe; they are changing more rapidly than many other dialects.

Dialect change is natural, and all dialects constantly change. But all is not lost for traditional ways of speaking. Just as some traditional ways of community life continue to survive, some aspects of the dialect continue to survive as well. One of the places where a number of Outer Banks features are preserved is on Ocracoke Island. Ocracoke is accessible only by ferry. This, combined with the smallness of the community, has helped preserve some language features that may have been lost in other Outer Banks locations.


  1. Define dialect and dialect/linguistic patterns for the students. (See “critical vocabulary” below.)
  2. Ask students if they have ever visited the Outer Banks, and what they remember about the area. Share background information with them.

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Video courtesy of North Carolina State University / North Carolina Language and Life Project. About the video
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  1. Show the video clip and have students discuss the following questions:
    • What factors have led to the Outer Banks having such a unique dialect?
    • Outer Bankers mention that they have had their dialect mistaken for English, Irish, and Australian. Has anyone ever thought that you were from somewhere that you’re not because of your speech? Do you think that your speech gives away where you’re from? Why or why not?
    • One of the people in the video describes how, without noticing, he changed the way he spoke while he was away from the Outer Banks in college. What situations can you think of where your speech changes? Are you aware that it changes or does it just happen naturally?
    • What vocabulary items did you hear that you were not familiar with? What do the terms mean? (See “critical vocabulary” below.)
  2. Talk to the students as they work through the Plural –s absence worksheet:
    1. Ask them to examine the lists to determine what properties the nouns in list B share. How are the nouns in list A different? You may have to read just the nouns to the class, i.e., “cats, dogs, bucks, ponies, sisters, teachers,” and ask “how are these different from bushel, pint, gallon, acre, and mile?”
    2. Ask them to compare the sentences in list B with those in list C. Ask students, “What is different about the use of the weight/measure nouns in list C versus list B?” Ask students what these sentences would be like if there was no plural –s. Would it be confusing? Are the sentences in list B confusing? What’s the difference? Have students write out the pattern in the worksheet, then use this pattern to predict whether or not a speaker on the Outer Banks may or may not drop the –s from the nouns in the sentences in list D.

    See the answer key attached to the worksheet for answers.


Assess by student participation in discussion and worksheet responses.

Critical vocabulary

Linguistics terms

a form of a language spoken by a group of people from the same regional or cultural background. Everyone speaks a dialect, even though some dialects are more noticeable than others.
dialect or linguistic patterns
When we say that the dialects of a language follow a pattern, or have “rules,” we mean that the various language forms are arranged in regular and predictable ways. Sometimes these patterns can be very complicated and difficult to figure out, but the human mind has the capacity to learn all of these intricate patterns without consciously thinking about them.

Outer Banks terms

harass, bother
sick, particularly to the stomach
a tourist who is unfamiliar with island life

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

Social Studies (2003)

Grade 8

  • Goal 8: The learner will evaluate the impact of demographic, economic, technological, social, and political developments in North Carolina since the 1970's.
    • Objective 8.04: Assess the importance of regional diversity on the development of economic, social, and political institutions in North Carolina.
  • Goal 9: The learner will explore examples of and opportunities for active citizenship, past and present, at the local and state levels.
    • Objective 9.01: Describe contemporary political, economic, and social issues at the state and local levels and evaluate their impact on the community.