The following is excerpted from the NC Department of Cultural Resources website for the North Carolina Awards:
Walt Wolfram is an internationally acclaimed linguist who has transformed the appreciation and understanding of the historical and social importance North Carolina’s rich language and dialect heritage. Wolfram was appointed the William C. Friday Distinguished professor at NC State University in 1992, when he founded the North Carolina Language and Life Project that has become a national model for sociolinguistic engagement and the dissemination of knowledge to the public.
Wolfram developed the “principle of linguistic gratuity” emphasizing the importance of giving back to the communities where he collects data for his research studies. With a colleague, he developed the first statewide school curriculum in the United States on dialect and language that complements the study of state history for eighth grade students in North Carolina. He continually engages the community through his work creating museum exhibits, appearing at the NC State Fair, serving as consultant to popular TV shows such as Sesame Street and creating eight documentaries on the dialects and languages of North Carolina.
Wolfram has been recognized for his outstanding work with many awards, including the John Tyler Caldwell Award for the Humanities, the Holladay Medal for lifetime achievement at NC State University and the Linguistics, Language and the Public Award from the Linguistic Society of America. In addition, he has also been recognized with the NC State Alumni Association Research Award, the Graduate Professor Award and the Extension and Engagement Award.