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A Bibliography with Abstracts of works on

Attitudes to African American English

by Peter L. Patrick, University of Essex

[All entries drawn from my AAE Bibliography]


This bibliography is a subset of the larger one I’ve compiled on African American English, and all the references here are also found there. It was initially developed in 2004 for an undergraduate course I teach at the University of Essex, Department of Language and Linguistics, on Creoles and Black Englishes. Special thanks go to Hal Schiffman’s webpage on language attitude bibliographies, and Renée Blake and Cecilia Cutler for returning the subject to my attention – and that of educators generally, I hope – in their fine article (2000).

I am primarily interested in works by linguists, or researchers working with linguists or with linguistic concepts. This list is both hampered and focused by that restriction, as there is undoubtedly a great deal of work by social psychologists, speech and education researchers, etc. which I don’t know about, and from which linguists might profit. If you know of this kind of work, and especially if you have bibliographies in these areas which specifically feature work on African American language attitudes, I’d like to hear from you with details. There’s also a lot of work which touches on language attitudes or AAE in a general way, and might have been included here, but I’ve tried to focus on their conjunction. E.g., important works on attitudes such as those (co-)authored by Howard Giles have rarely done original research on African American speech, so are excluded here.

Many of the works cited below are from the 1960s and 1970s, as a great deal of attention was paid by linguists to attitude testing then, especially in conjunction with education. It seems to me that much of the important work done at that time may have become undervalued by, or unavailable and unknown to, current researchers. (I acquired a lot of these works myself from older scholars clearing out their shelves!) Especially at that time, it was common to leave ethnic and racial identities out of titles, but rest assured that all the works below do importantly figure African American speech (often in conjunction with Mexican-American, Puerto Rican or other dialects). I have not been able to read all of these and other works on language attitudes, and would very much appreciate further references, abstracts, and information, especially of other works on the general topic of language attitudes which (despite rather general titles) importantly feature AAE.

Where possible below I have given abstracts, or created them from authors’ text, and will try to add more. In the larger AAE bibliography, these abstracts are linked to directly.

Please contact me via the address on my homepage, and for more information and links, please see my webpage on African American English.


Adger, Carolyn Temple, Donna Christian, and Orlando Taylor, eds. 1999. Making the connection: Language and academic achievement among African American students. Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics and Delta Systems Co., Inc. Relevant articles here include those by JR Rickford, G Smitherman, and W Wolfram.


Aggarwal, Kailash S. 1998. Exploring of American ideologies of language. CIEFL Bulletin (New series) 9(2): 1-22.

Author abstract: Americans display multiple and often contradictory beliefs, perceptions, attitudes, and understandings about language policy issues. The major US ideologies of language are similar, however, in their denial of language inequality. Those who fight for the rights of linguistic minorities accept some of the main assumptions of their adversaries, the champions of ‘US English’. These assumptions include the politically disunifying consequence of linguistic diversity, the validity of competence in English as an indicator of national loyalty, the intrinsic inferiority of dialects, the adequacy of will power for mastery of English, and the adequacy of this mastery for upward social and economic mobility. These and similar assumptions seem to have led to the exclusion of language from the categories protected by law from discrimination in the US. Such a generalization emerges chiefly from debates and judicial opinions about the official recognition of Spanish and Black English in elections and in public schools. 71 References. [Adapted from the source document]


Baird, Scott James. 1969. Employment interview speech: A social dialect study in Austin, Texas. PhD dissertation, University of Texas at Austin. UMI no. AAT 6915781.

Abstract: This dissertation is discussed by supervisor David DeCamp in Shuy (1969:187, reference below), where DeCamp notes that it examines “differential reactions of white listener subjects to Negro speech”, working with “the Osgood semantic differential scale” and using as variables “a series of features which were widely recognized… as being the shibboleths of Black English”, presented “as minimal pairs on tape” with standard English forms. [Adapted from another document]


Ball, Arnetha and Lardner, Ted. 1997. Dispositions toward language: Teacher constructs of knowledge and the Ann Arbor Black English case. College Composition and Communication 48(4): 469-485.

Author abstract: Constructs of teacher knowledge are discussed as they relate to attitudes toward language variation in the classroom, especially concerning dialects of Black English. The Ann Arbor case (1979) ruled that the school board was to be held responsible for preparing teachers to adequately instruct speakers of Black English. It was decided that teachers’ negative attitudes toward Black English had damaging psychological effects on its speakers, and thus impeded their learning. Teachers were required to undergo an education program to help them understand the problem and work to solve it. Despite this training, teachers remained unclear as to how to apply what they had learned to classroom practice. It is argued that solutions to this problem can be found by examining three constructs of teacher knowledge: teacher as technician, teacher knowledge as lore, and teacher efficacy. It is suggested that working the issue of affect into pedagogical theory will improve [matters].


Barnes, Sandra L. 1998. Ebonics and public awareness: Who knows? Who cares? Journal of Black Studies 29(1): 17-33.

Author abstract: Analyzes awareness of the Oakland, California, School Board’s resolution [OUSD 1996] concerning the status of Ebonics in its public schools, drawing on questionnaire data from 420 undergraduates at an ethnically diverse college in the southern US. Results indicate that student race, major, and choice in the 1996 presidential election increased their familiarity with Ebonics and the school board’s decision; Anglo and African American students demonstrated the greatest awareness. Respondents with knowledge of Ebonics generally showed an understanding of the school board’s decision. The presidential choice variable was a more significant determinant of student knowledge of Ebonics & the school board’s resolution than was the race variable. 5 Tables, 27 References.


Blake, Renée, & Cecilia Cutler. 2000. AAE and variation in teachers’ attitudes: A question of school philosophy? Linguistics and Education 14(2): 163-194.

Author abstract: Linguists and other social scientists have identified school curriculum, teacher education, language policy and testing as pedagogical domains in which to address issues and develop tools that foster greater academic achievement of African American English-speaking students, and nonstandard English speakers more generally. This article focuses on the intersection between teachers’ attitudes towards African American English and language policy, or lack thereof, at the secondary school level. The analyses are based on questionnaires completed by teachers from several public schools located in the New York metropolitan area. This study includes teachers with large populations of students for whom English is a second language, or whose primary language is a dialect of English other than that spoken by the mainstream. Thus, we inquire to what extent teachers are sensitized to the educational needs of these students. The results point to the importance of school policy in affecting teachers’ sensitivity towards African American English.


Bouchard-Ryan, Ellen. 1969. A psycholinguistic attitude study. Studies in Language and Language Behavior 8: 437-450.


Bowie, R. L, and C. L. Bond. 1994. Influencing teachers’ attitudes towards Black English: Are we making a difference? Journal of Teacher Education 45: 112-118.


Burnett, Myra N., Randi Burlew and Glenetta Hudson. 1997. Embracing the Black English Vernacular: Response to Koch and Gross. Journal of Black Psychology 23(3): 233-237.

Author abstract: Response to Lisa M. Koch & Alan Gross (1997, same journal issue). While agreeing with Koch & Gross’s assertion that children’s & adults’ perceptions of Black English differ, it is argued that the difference occurs for similar, not conflicting reasons. The fact that creative Black English vocabulary was used in the examples heard by participants is said to have influenced the perceptions of the junior high school students, who would naturally, due to their age, view a speaker who uses creative vocabulary as being more contemporary & thus more appealing. In addition, the assumption that the subjects were fluent in both Black English & Standard English may be wrong. If subjects were more familiar with Black vernacular, they would tend to view the Black English speaker m ore positively based on that familiarity. Finally, Koch & Gross’s suggestion that the in-group for these adolescents is mainstream American culture rather than their peers is considered erroneous.


Cecil, N.L. 1988. Black dialect and academic success: A study of teacher expectations. Reading Improvement: 34-38, 25.


Di Giulio, R.C. 1973. Measuring teacher attitudes toward Black English: A pilot project. The Florida Foreign Language Reporter, Spring/Fall: 25-26, 49.


Fraser, Bruce. 1973. Some ‘unexpected’ reactions to various American-English dialects. In Roger W. Shuy and Ralph W. Fasold, eds., Language attitudes: Current trends and prospects, 28-35. Washington DC: Georgetown University Press.


Green, Lisa J. 2002. “Approaches, attitudes and education.” In LJ Green, African American English: A linguistic introduction, pp. 216-244 (=Chap. 8).

Hensley, Anne. 1972. Black high school students’ reactions to black speakers of Standard and Black English. Language Learning 22(2): 253-259.

Author abstract: The ‘matched guise’ technique was used to measure reactions of 120 black high school students towards taped voices of black persons when they speak Standard English (SE) and when they speak Black English (NNE). Subjects, speakers of NNE, listened to taped voices of bidialectal speakers, the two dialects of each speaker maximally separated on the tapes. Voices were rated on a semantic differential scale for 14 traits obtained from equivalent subjects. Subjects revealed an overwhelming preference for the SE guise. Interactions of dialect with speaker sex and student sex are discussed. Three explanations considered are: (1) influence of school test context; (2) adequacy of traits; and (3) that subjects may, indeed, accept values of the dominant culture regarding language standardization. Keywords: Nonstandard dialect; American Negro; semantic differential.


Hill, Jane H. 1998. Language, race and white public space. American Anthropologist 100(3): 680-689.

Author abstract: White public space is constructed through (1) intense monitoring of the speech of racialized populations such as Chicanos and Latinos and African Americans for signs of linguistic disorder, and (2) the invisibility of almost identical signs in the speech of whites, where language mixing, required for the expression of a highly valued type of colloquial persona, takes several forms. One such form, Mock Spanish, exhibits a complex semiotics. By direct indexicality, Mock Spanish presents speakers as possessing desirable personal qualities. By indirect indexicality, it reproduces highly negative racializing stereotypes of Chicanos and Latinos. In addition, it indirectly indexes ‘whiteness’ as an unmarked normative order. Mock Spanish is compared to white ‘crossover’ uses of African American English. The question of the potential for such usages to be reshaped to subvert the order of racial practices in discourse is briefly explored. 51 References. [Adapted from the source document]


Hoover, Mary. 1978. Community attitudes toward Black English. Language in Society 7(1): 65-87.


Hoover, Mary R., Faye McNair-Knox, S.A.R. Lewis, and R.L. Politzer. 1996. African American English attitude measures for teachers. In R.L. Jones, ed., Handbook of tests and measurements for Black populations, vol. I: 83-93. Hampton VA: Cobb & Henry.


Hopper, Robert, and Frederick Williams. 1973. Speech characteristics and employability. Speech Monographs 40: 296-302.


Johnson, Fern L., and Richard Buttny. 1982. White listeners’ responses to ‘sounding black’ and ‘sounding white’: The effects of message content on judgments about language. Communication Monographs 49(1): 33-49.


Kalin, R., D.S. Rayko and N. Love. 1979. The perception and evaluation of job candidates with four different ethnic accents. In H Giles, WP Robinson, and P Smith, eds., Language and Social Psychology, 197-202. London: Pergamon Press.


Koch,  Lisa M., and Alan Gross. 1997. Children’s perceptions of Black English as a variable in intraracial perception. Journal of Black Psychology 23(3): 215-226.

Author abstract: African American children's perceptions of speakers of Black English vs speakers of Standard English are examined. Studies involving adult, middle-class African Americans have shown that as they move toward the mainstream of American culture, thei r perceptions of speakers of Black English become more negative. Based on previous studies that suggest African American children perceive Black English more positively than Standard English, it was hypothesized that they rate speakers of Black English higher on 24 personality characteristics than speakers of Standard English. Subjects (N= 53 female & 43 male African American junior high students) listened to audiotapes: one of an African American male speaking in Black English, the other of the same male speaking in Standard English. Responses indicated that subjects viewed the Black English speaker as more likable than the Standard English speaker. 4 Tables, 27 References. [Adapted from the source document]


Lanehart, Sonja L. 1998. African American Vernacular English and education: The dynamics of pedagogy, ideology, and identity. Journal of English Linguistics 26(2): 122-136.

Author abstract: The dynamics of pedagogy, ideology, and identity are discussed with regard to African American Vernacular English, noting that various ideologies are held about language, resulting in a variety of repercussions. It is suggested that the ideology of Standard English sets up an immediate inferior/superior dichotomy that puts the nonstandard varieties at instant disadvantage. The ideology of opportunity implies that the standard variety will benefit its speakers. The ideology of progress is related to ethnocentrism and racism, suggesting positive outcomes are race and culture related, rather than due to the failure of the educational system. It is concluded that the debate over standard vs. nonstandard or the question of separate language is not about language, but is about a community of speakers with a recognizable culture. 38 References.


Larimer, George S., E. David Beatty, and Alfonso C. Broadus. 1988. Indirect assessment of interracial prejudices. Journal of Black Psychology 14(2): 47-56.


Linn, Michael D. & Gene Piché. 1982. Black and White adolescent and preadolescent attitudes toward Black English. Research in the Teaching of English 16(1): 53-69.

Author abstract: Described are the attitudes of Black and White, M & F, MC & LC adolescents (N = 27) and preadolescents (N = 16) in response to tape-recorded samples of Standard English (SE) and Black English (BE). Using the matched guise technique, the BE version approximated the % of actual vs potential occurrence, as found in Wolfram’s (1969) Detroit study: non-occurrence of the copula, non-occurrence of the third person singular -Z, non-occurrence of the plural -Z, non-occurrence of the possessive -Z, and the occurrence of multiple negation. There was one occurrence of invariant be in the BE sample. Results indicate that BE is no longer considered the "shuffling speech of slavery" by either white or black grade school or high school students. Complicated aspects of social change over the past two decades have created a greater feeling of pride among the blacks and some changes in regard for blacks by whites. Children appear to reach the zenith of ethnic identity about the beginning of puberty. 6 Tables, 13 References. Keywords: Black English, attitudes, adolescent language, sociolinguistics, semantic differential.


Lippi-Green, Rosina. 1997. English with an accent. See especially Chap. 9: “The real trouble with Black English,” 176-201. See also Chap 4: “Language ideology and the language subordination model,” 63-73. New York: Routledge.


Lovett, Marilyn, and Joneka Neely. 1997. On becoming bilingual. Journal of Black Psychology 23(3): 242-244.

Author abstract: Perceptions of Black English (Ebonics) vs marketplace English (as opposed to Standard English, a term that invalidates other dialects of English and the speakers of those dialects) by Black Americans are discussed. Studies suggest black adults view marketplace English more positively than Black English, whereas black youths tend to perceive Black English more positively. The importance of marketplace English as a survival tool in the US, due to the perpetuation of institutional racism, is acknowledged; however, it is recommended that black adults recognize the legitimacy of Ebonics among African American youth so that they can communicate within the dominant culture as well as their own. 4 References.


Mitchell-Kernan, Claudia. 1971. Language behavior in a Black urban community. Chapter 2, “The status of Black English for native speakers,” 38-86. Berkeley, California: Monographs of the Language-Behavior Research Laboratory, no. 2. [Reprint of 1969 PhD dissertation by Claudia I. Mitchell, University of California at Berkeley. UMI no. AAT 7013120.]

Author abstract: “…This chapter… discuss[es] the attitudes of speakers of Black English toward their language and the influence these attitudes may have upon the formal characteristics of the code itself. [The] major points are: native speaker attitudes toward the code serve to produce a proliferation of referentially equivalent variants at points where Standard English and Black English differ; positive valuation of Black communicative style and the unifying function served by Black English tend to preserve linguistic continuity.” [Adapted from the source document] Comment: The first insider ethnographic exploration of African American values and social functions of AAE, this ground-breaking study is based on 15 months’ fieldwork in Oakland CA between June 1965 and August 1967. The third chapter, which surveys the speech acts of signifying and (for the first time) loud-talking and marking, is also relevant to language attitudes.


Olsen, Lisa Taylor, Mary Lynn Steelman, M.D. Buffalo, and Jim Montague. 1999. Preliminary information on stuttering characteristics contrasted between African American and White children. Journal of Communication Disorders 32(2): 97-108.

Author abstract: To study variation of behavioral stuttering among various cultures, verbal disfluency and accessory characteristics of 15 African American and 15 white male stutterers (N= 15 each, aged 8-12) were compared. In addition to a speaking attitude scale for each of the subjects, conversational and reading samples were gathered. Good intra- and inter-judge reliability was found in assessing the various tasks. Overall results revealed no statistically significant differences in verbal or visual disfluency behaviors on either the reading or conversation tasks between the African American and white groups of children. In addition, no differences in attitudes toward speaking situations was found between the two groups of children. Implications for the diagnosis and treatment of disfluent African American elementary school aged children are discussed. Specific suggestions are made for additional disfluency research with African American children. 1 Table, 18 References. [Adapted from the source document]


Payne, Kay, Joe Downing, and John Christopher Fleming. 2000. Speaking Ebonics in a professional context: The role of ethos/source credibility and perceived sociability of the speaker. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication 30(4): 367-383.

Author abstract: Within a theoretical context of speech accommodation theory, this study follows Lambert et al’s (1960) ‘matched guise’ technique in an experiment involving 72 African American students at a mid-Southern [US] university. Subjects listened to and evaluated a tape-recorded excerpt of a speech given by Jesse Jackson at the 1996 Democratic National Convention. The speech was translated into Ebonics and Standard English, after which students answered a questionnaire concerning the ethos/source credibility and perceived sociability of the speaker. The speaker who used Standard English was viewed as more credible (ie, more competent and having a strong character) and sociable than the Ebonics speaker; both of these scores were significant at the p<.05 level. Future research replicating these results is urged across other African American samples. 5 Tables, 61 References. Keywords: Language attitudes, Black English, social perception, standard dialects, nonstandard dialects, psychoacoustics. [Adapted from the source document]


Purnell, Thomas, William Idsardi, & John Baugh. 1999. Perceptual and phonetic experiments on American English dialect identification. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 18(1): 10-30.

Author abstract: Use of a nonstandard dialect is often enough information to determine a speaker’s ethnicity, and speakers may consequently suffer discrimination based on their speech. Presented here are findings of four experiments, revealing that housing discrimination based solely on telephone conversations occurs, dialect identification is possible using the word hello, and phonetic correlates of dialect can be discovered. In one experiment, several telephone surveys (N=989 calls) were conducted over a short time period, using standard and nonstandard dialects to inquire about housing from the same landlords in the San Francisco, California, area. Results demonstrate that landlords discriminate against prospective tenants on the basis of the sound of their voice during telephone conversations. Another experiment was conducted with untrained participants to confirm this ability; listeners identified the dialects significantly better than chance. Phonetic analysis reveals that phonetic variables potentially distinguish the dialects. 14 Tables, 3 Figures, 40 References. [Adapted from the source document]


Richardson, Elaine. 1998. The anti-Ebonics movement: ‘Standard’ English only. Journal of English Linguistics 26(2): 156-169.

Author abstract: The movement against Ebonics is examined, focusing on the current anti-Ebonics legislation that has arisen as a result of the debate over the Oakland Unified School District’s 1996 Ebonics resolution and subsequent national discussion. Among the resolutions presented to the US House of Representatives are Peter King’s H.Res. 28 (1/9/97), which seeks to block funding for any program based on the premise that Ebonics is a legitimate language, and John Doolittle’s H.J. Res. 37 (2/4/97), the English-only bill that seeks to discontinue federally funded bilingual education programs. In addition, the five states introducing or having passed anti-Ebonics legislation or that are working to keep Ebonics out of the country’s classrooms are noted, including Georgia, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Florida, and California. It is concluded that this overview of anti-Ebonics policies and legislation indicates America’s problems with inherent racism and social control and the general tendency toward a monolingual and anti-multicultural language and literacy education. 19 References.


Rickford, John R. 1996. Attitudes towards AAVE, and classroom implications and strategies. In Sandra Lee McKay and Nancy F. Hornberger, eds., Sociolinguistics and language teaching. Cambridge University Press. Reprinted in JR Rickford ed., 1999, African American Vernacular English: Features, evolution, educational implications. Oxford: Blackwell, pp283-289.


Rickford, John R. & Rickford, Russell J. 2000. Spoken Soul: The story of Black English. New York: John Wiley & Sons. Chapters 9: “Education”, 10: “The Media”, and 12: “The crucible of identity”.


Robinson, James Adolph. 1996. The relationship between personal characteristics and attitudes toward Black and White speakers of informal non-standard English. Western Journal of Black Studies 20(4): 211-220.

Author abstract: The relationship between cognitive complexity, racial belief, and the influence of a nonstandard dialect on listener reactions is investigated. Subjects (N=135 undergraduates) listened to an emotionally neutral tape recording of a black PhD candidate and then responded to questionnaires exploring subjects’ cognitive complexity, racial beliefs, and attitude toward the speaker. It is found that the perceived race of the speaker tended to elicit stereotypical responses from listeners, whether they were black or white. Contrary to the conclusions of previous research, this finding held for individuals with both low and high cognitive complexity. However, it is suggested that a person with high racial bias and greater cognitive complexity is more flexible and thus more susceptible to positive training and exposure to cultural differences than an individual with low cognitive complexity and high racial bias. Although this small sample size precludes its generalization to a heterogeneous population, its combining cognitive complexity and racial bias variables has produced a higher order construct that is a significant predictor of language attitudes. 3 Tables, 70 References. [Adapted from the source document]


Scott, Jerrie L.C. 1998. The serious side of Ebonics humor. Journal of English Linguistics 26(2): 137-155.

Author abstract: Given that the Ebonics controversy, resulting from the Oakland Unified School District’s [OUSD 1996] resolution, has led to a special category of humor on the internet and in the media in the form of jokes, cartoons, etc., this humor is analyzed into three types. The type referred to as ‘namecalling funnies’ is indicated to demonstrate the linkage between language and other stereotypical personal attributes. The type called the ‘death-of-English funnies’ is viewed from the angle of maintaining the integrity of all languages. The ‘code-switching funnies’ focus on the different discourse rules for different languages/dialects. It is concluded that this humor reflects the need to expand knowledge that can be translated into educational policy, practice, and teacher training.


Shuy, Roger W. 1969. Subjective judgments in sociolinguistic analysis. In James E. Alatis, ed., Linguistics and the teaching of Standard English to speakers of other languages or dialects. Report of the 20th Annual Round Table meeting on Linguistics and Language Studies. (Monograph series on Languages and Linguistics, Vol. 22, 1969.) Washington DC: Georgetown University Press, 175-188.

Abstract: Reports results of a large-scale study of racial identification from audio samples of Detroit speakers of African American English, with variables of race, status, and age. Discussion pp185-188 includes comments by Fasold, Labov, Baratz, DeCamp.


Shuy, Roger W., Joan C. Baratz and Walter Wolfram. 1969. Sociolinguistic factors in speech identification. National Institute of Mental Health Project Report No. MH 15048-01.

Described in abstract for Shuy & Williams 1973, below.


Shuy, Roger W. and Frederick Williams. 1973. Stereotyped attitudes of selected English dialect communities. In Roger W. Shuy and Ralph W. Fasold, eds., Language attitudes: Current trends and prospects, 85-96. Washington DC: Georgetown University Press.

Abstract: This “report describes the results of a statistical analysis of subjective judgment data from an earlier study (Shuy, Baratz & Wolfram 1969) which involved Detroit respondents’ evaluations of five types of speech… Detroit speech, White Southern Speech, British speech, Negro speech [and] Standard speech… In the original… study, respondents had evaluated the speech concepts against selected semantic differential scales… Results of the original analysis indicated selected reliable differentiations of the speech concepts in terms of individual scales… This paper reports a more detailed statistical analysis… focused upon the dimensionality of such ratings… [and] the use of those dimensions by different types of respondents”, according to race, socioeconomic status, age and sex… There were reliable contrasts among ratings of the five different types of speech… [and] an interaction was found between the ethnicity of respondents and certain of the speech-type judgments… [with] black respondents rating Negro speech more positively… [as well as] interaction between social status of the respondent and speech attitude… [and] age of respondent with speech attitude… [but] no interactions between sex of respondents and speech attitudes… Four dimensions of judgment could be identified… the dimensions reflect some level of psychological reality of stereotype attitudes of the respondents.” [Adapted from the source document]


Smitherman, Geneva, and Sylvia Cunningham. 1997. Moving beyond resistance: Ebonics and African American youth. Journal of Black Psychology 23(3): 227-232.

Author abstract: The controversy over Ebonics and the educational & social crises of black youths are discussed. In order to help black youth overcome their resistance to learning, it is recommended that black leaders (1) recognize that language is the foundation of individual and group identity construction, (2) teach Black English as it relates to black identity and heritage, and (3) critically examine the history, sociopolitical, and sociolinguistic uses of both Black and Standard English; this would form a basis for understanding what is considered standard and how it became the standard representative of all people in the US. It is hoped that this approach will provide black youths with an understanding of the differences between languages, and the value of language and culture, and thus, pride and confidence in themselves and their language.


Speicher, Barbara L. and Seane M. McMahon. 1992. Some African-American perspectives on Black English Vernacular. Language in Society 21: 383-407.

Author abstract: Sixteen African Americans affiliated with a university participated in open-ended interviews exploring their experiential, atitudinal and descriptive responses to Black English Vernacular (BEV). The fields of sociolinguistics and education report complex and conrtadictory attitudes and research findings regarding this code. In addition, media representations of BEV have been misleading. This article investigates how these sources have influenced the attitudes of these African Americans over 20 years. We found few trends and little unanimity among our respondents. This finding is neither problematic nor surprising. African Americans do not comprise a monolithic group, acting, thinking and speaking as one. The results are summarized, and three issues that emerged from the interviews are discussed: problems with the label Black English Vernacular; the possibility that BEV was socially constructed; and the perception that BEV is a limited linguistic system.


Taylor, Orlando. 1973. Teachers’ attitudes toward Black English and nonstandard English as measured by the language attitude scale. In Roger W. Shuy and Ralph W. Fasold, eds., Language attitudes: Current trends and prospects, 174-201. Washington DC: Georgetown University Press.

Abstract: This effort “by the author to assess teachers’ attitudes on language differences… between teachers and students in schools with substantial black and other minority group children… involved the developed and administration of a Language Attitude Scale (LAS)… a Likert-type scaling instrument… designed to solicit data on what teachers think about nonstandard and Black English, and how (or if) this dialect should be used in the classroom.” 117 test items were selected “as a function of their ability to discriminate teachers with positive Black English attitudes from those with negative Black English attitudes… [based on] administration of 117 items to a group of 186 teachers from throughout the United States”. Noting the previous lack of any “controlled study… which discusses, in-depth, teachers’ attitudes… as a function of such variables as race, sex, geography, teaching experience, grade taught, etc., S was administered to a large cross section of teachers to obtain data of these types.” The sample of respondents included 422 teachers from “one rural and one large urban school… in each of nine Federal Census districts… [with] at least 20 teachers (10 males and 10 females) …selected in each of the settings [so as to reflect] the racial and cultural compositions of the communities”. The LAS instrument is described, and statistical results presented and interpreted, in detail. [Adapted from the source document]


Tucker, G.R. and W. E. Lambert. 1969. White and Negro listeners’ reactions to various American English dialects. Social Forces 47: 463-468. [Reprinted in JL Dillard, ed., Perspectives on Black English, 369-377.]


White, Michael J., Beverly J. Vandiver, Maria L. Becker, Belinda G. Overstreet, Linda E. Temple, Kelly L. Hagan and Emily P. Mandelbaum. 1998. African American evaluations of Black English and Standard American English. Journal of Black Psychology 24(1): 60-75.

Author abstract: African American undergraduates (N= 55) at a midwestern [US] university evaluated two language guises: Black English and Standard American English. The speaker in these guises described activities in a weekend (informal) and in a business (formal) setting. Based on their scores on the African Self-Consciousness Scale, respondents were categorized as having either a low or high commitment to an African American identity. Results showed that persons without a committed black identity evaluated Black English as lower status than those with a committed black identity. Black English was not perceived as reflecting higher social solidarity. 2 Tables, 1 Figure, 31 References. [Adapted from the source document]


Frederick Williams et al.’s early 1970s research:

The Child Language Research Project (at the Center for Communication Research, University of Texas, 1970-1972), led by Frederick Williams and colleagues, resulted in the following and other publications. Williams described the general project as somewhat distinct from the work of most sociolinguists, which “have placed the emphasis upon linguistic variables, or [language] features which are socially stratified, and how these variables may serve in attitudinal evaluations by listeners. In contrast, [our] aim… is to examine some aspects of the attitudinal processes presumed to operate when persons make such judgments… [as] the estimate of a speaker’s social status… My thesis is that, to varying degrees, [people] have a stereotyped set of attitudes about social dialects and their speakers, and these attitudes play a role in how a person perceives the cues in another person’s speech… [The special focus is on] determining and measuring attitudes that …teachers have reflected in their evaluations of children’s speech… operationally [defining] dialect stereotypes, and… speculati[ng] on how the dialect stereotypes appear to enter into the processes of speech evaluations… [People] tend to employ stereotyped sets of attitudes as anchor points for their evaluation of whatever is presented to them as a sample of a person’s speech.” (Williams 1973: 113, 126)

Whitehead, JL, and Leslie M Miller. 1972. Correspondence between evaluations of children’s speech and speech anticipated upon the basis of stereotype. Southern Speech Communications Journal 7(3): 375-386.

Williams, Frederick. 1970a. Language, attitudes and social change. In F. Williams, ed., Language and poverty. Chicago: Markham Publishing Co.

Williams, Frederick. 1970b. Psychological correlates of speech characteristics: On sounding ‘disadvantaged’. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research 13: 472-488.

This study investigated attitudes among small groups of black and white teachers in Chicago.

Williams, Frederick. 1973a. Some research notes on dialect attitudes and stereotypes. In Roger W. Shuy and Ralph W. Fasold, eds., Language attitudes: Current trends and prospects, 113-128. Washington DC: Georgetown University Press.

Williams, Frederick. 1973b. Some recent studies of language attitudes. In Roger W. Shuy, ed., Some new directions in linguistics, 121-149. Washington DC: Georgetown University Press.

Williams, Frederick, JL Whitehead, and Leslie M Miller. 1971. Ethnic stereotyping and judgments of children’s speech. Speech Monographs 38: 166-170.

In this study, “videotaped images of children and audiotape samples of their speech [were]… switched such that, e.g., a standard English passage could be combined with the video image of a black child, and ratings of that combination compared with ratings when the same passage was paired with a white child.”

Williams, Frederick, JL Whitehead, and J Traupmann. 1971. Teachers’ evaluations of children’s speech. Speech Teacher 20: 247-254.

This study investigated attitudes among groups of black, white and Mexican-American teachers in central Texas.

Williams, Frederick, JL Whitehead, and Leslie M Miller. 1972. Relations between language attitudes and teacher expectancy. American Educational Research Journal 9(2): 263-277.

This study, which also investigated attitudes among groups of black, white and Mexican-American teachers in central Texas, “found that ratings could be obtained simply by presenting a teacher with an ethnic label of a child and asking her to rate her experiences with, and anticipations of, children of that type.”

Williams, Frederick, and WA Shamo. 1972. Regional variation in teachers’ attitudes toward children’s language. Central States Speech Journal 23.

This study investigated attitudes among groups of black and white teachers in Memphis.


Wolfram, Walt. 1973. Objective and subjective parameters of language assimilation among second-generation Puerto Ricans in East Harlem. In Roger W. Shuy and Ralph W. Fasold, eds., Language attitudes: Current trends and prospects, 148-173. Washington DC: Georgetown University Press.

An important part of Wolfram’s study of Puerto Rican speakers in New York City was the focus on their assimilation of the surrounding black culture and language, which contrasted Puerto Rican subjects according to the degree of their contact with black AAE speakers.


Wolfram, Walt. 1998. Language ideology and dialect: Understanding the Oakland Ebonics controversy. Journal of English Linguistics 26(2): 108-121.

Author abstract: The controversy surrounding the Oakland Unified School District resolution regarding Ebonics is discussed, noting that the debate has emphasized the existence of beliefs and opinions about language and language diversity, has resulted in public misinformation about language variation and education, and has demonstrated the need to inform the public about these issues. Also, it is observed that the debates of the 1960s were apparently insufficient to overcome prevailing attitudes and practices. Issues noted in the debate were (1) the separate language issue, ie, whether Ebonics was a language or a dialect, rather than simply a legitimate language system; (2) the source language(s) of Ebonics; (3) the ‘genetic’ issue, the public’s confusion of the historical linguistics term with biological predisposition; (4) the bilingual issue, revolving around the rights of African Americans in contrast to the rights of second-language learners; and (5) the teaching issue, confusion over learning Ebonics as opposed to respect for Ebonics. To dispel this confusion, it is suggested that it is the duty of the language professions to educate the teaching professionals, the students, and the public about these issues.


Wolfram, Walt. 1998. Black children are verbally deprived. In Laurie Bauer & Peter Trudgill, eds., Language Myths. London: Penguin, 103-112.


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last revised 05 February 2007