Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor's Name

Linda Spears-Bunton

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Leonard B. Bliss

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Third Advisor's Name

Joan T. Wynne

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Heather D. Russell

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fifth Advisor's Name

Kyle Perkins

Fifth Advisor's Committee Title

Committe member

Keywords

African American English; Ebonics; Student Attitudes; Student Perceptions

Date of Defense

12-10-2015

Abstract

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.

Identifier

FIDC000214

 

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