Tougaloo Professor Named Humanities Teacher of the Year

Last Updated on October 10, 2015

Tougaloo College Campus SignageOctober is National Arts and Humanities Month, proclaimed annually by the President and the Governor. The Mississippi Humanities Council will celebrate the occasion by presenting Humanities Teacher Awards to one humanities faculty member at each institution of higher learning in the state.

Tougaloo College is proud to announce the selection of its 2015 Mississippi Humanities Council “Teacher of the Year”, Dr. Elise Morse-Gagné, Associate Professor of Linguistics and English, Department of English, Tougaloo College. Dr. Morse-Gagné joined the Tougaloo College faculty fall of 2005. Her research interests include: Language Content in the History of English; Middle English; English Personal Pronouns; Mississippi Speech; and College Slang. Dr. Morse-Gagné shares the following synopsis of her work.

“When I say I am a linguist—a person who studies language—people often cover their mouths and pretend to be scared that I’ll whip out an arrest warrant for how they talk. But in linguistics, we look at language descriptively, not prescriptively. So instead of telling native speakers of English that they’re doing it wrong, we relish exploring the many different ways real people communicate in English. Linguists accept two facts that tend to bother normal humans: languages change through time, and in any given moment there are many ways to speak “the same” language. “

Dr. Elise Morse-Gagné, Associate Professor of Linguistics and English, Department of English, Tougaloo College
Dr. Elise Morse-Gagné
“Naturally, language change is central to any course in the History of the English Language. When I teach this class, though, I don’t just pick one “standard” variety of English to follow from Old English to the present day: instead, within each period, I assign texts in different dialects. This helps students understand that linguistic variety is to be expected. Accordingly, when we discuss English in the present day, they find it easier to view the range of American dialects as normal. This is important because when we talk about language differences, we are talking about diversity. We can’t keep on acting as if the dominant narrative is the only one worth listening to, while relegating everything else to a footnote. We need to respect each voice, and one way I demonstrate that approach is by paying due attention to the varieties of English spoken in medieval times as well as in modern America.”

On Monday, October 12, 2015, at 10:00 a.m. in Bennie G. Thompson Academic and Civil Rights Research Center Lecture Hall on the campus of Tougaloo College, Dr. Elise Morse-Gagné will present a lecture entitled, “Respecting Variety in the History of the English Language”. The lecture will be followed by a reception.

You can join Tougaloo in celebrating the outstanding work of our humanities scholar! Contact the Division of Humanities Office, Tougaloo College, at 601-977-7749 or 601-977-4431 for further information.

About the The Mississippi Humanities Teacher Awards

The Mississippi Humanities Council's Humanities Teacher Awards program aims to honor outstanding humanities professors at each of the state's institutions of higher learning. The awards are given each October in conjunction with National Arts & Humanities Month. As part of their honor, the award recipients must agree to present a lecture on a humanities subject that is free and open to the public during the months of October or November. This provides Mississippians with an unique opportunity to hear over thirty free, humanities-based lectures throughout the entire state. For a full list of Humanities Teacher Award lectures, follow this link to our Awards page

Source: Tougaloo College Office of Communications

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