Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Curriculum and Instruction
First Advisor's Name
First Advisor's Committee Title
Second Advisor's Name
Leonard B. Bliss
Second Advisor's Committee Title
Third Advisor's Name
Joan T. Wynne
Third Advisor's Committee Title
Fourth Advisor's Name
Heather D. Russell
Fourth Advisor's Committee Title
Fifth Advisor's Name
Fifth Advisor's Committee Title
African American English; Ebonics; Student Attitudes; Student Perceptions
Date of Defense
The differences in attitudes toward African American English (AAE) and Mainstream American English (MAE) were investigated among elementary students (N=34) and middle school students (N=40) using the Speech Evaluation Instrument (SEI). Participants listened to audio recordings of speakers of AAE and MAE and then completed the SEI.
Both elementary and middle school students perceived MAE positively (p =.005), as hypothesized. However, for both hypotheses related to AAE, the researcher hypothesized that both groups would perceive the language negatively; however, in both cases, the researcher failed to reject the null hypothesis. Comparing how each group perceived the two languages, it was found that both groups perceived MAE more positively than they did AAE. With regard to perceptions of AAE, middle school students did not perceive AAE more favorably than elementary students did, as had been hypothesized.
On individual scales of the Speech Evaluation Instrument, both elementary and middle school students perceived speakers of MAE more positively than they did speakers of AAE. Students felt that speakers of MAE were better readers, smarter, and more likely to be rich than speakers of AAE. Although, middle school students were more likely to feel that speakers of MAE were more intelligent and more likely to be leaders than speakers of AAE; elementary students did not feel the same way. For middle school students there was a statistically significant difference in how they perceived speakers of the two languages. Middle school students perceived speakers of MAE to be more helpful, more friendly, nicer, and kinder than speakers of AAE.
The study concluded that both elementary and middle school students perceived MAE more positively than they did AAE. There appeared to be a shift in perceptions the longer students are in school. The study also revealed that perceiving MAE more positively than AAE did not indicate the participants perceived AAE negatively.
Lewis, Tamika L., "Exploring Children's Perceptions of African American English" (2015). FIU Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 2317.
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