Date of Award

5-1-2011

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Speech Communication

First Advisor

Pineau, Elyse

Abstract

This is a qualitative study that explores the ways in which African American English (AAE) speakers understand and use their own language. The study is based on 10 individual interviews with participants who self-identified as fluent speakers of AAE and Mainstream American English (i.e., Standard English). Participants shared personal examples, stories, and disclosures as a way to expose the meaning and interpretations of AAE in context and to reveal how it functions in their everyday lives. The purpose of this study is to increase awareness and appreciation of AAE and its relationship to the formation and preservation of individual and group identities. The literatures and the interview data reveal that, to think negatively about the way African Americans articulate their thoughts is, in fact, not just dismissing their speech form, but their history, culture, community and ultimately, the way they make sense of and maneuver in the world.

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