Language ideologies, language attitudes, and discourse: African American English in middle school




Payne, Joyelle

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Using the methodological tool of Critical Discourse Analysis, this research links three aspects of language---discourse, attitudes, and ideologies---and examines their effects on students who use African American English (AAE) in a middle school in a small city in Oklahoma. Presented as a classroom case study, an examination of classroom discourse reveals that the use of AAE is common among students, but the degree to which AAE is used varies from context to context and from student to student. A total of eight eighth grade students and four teachers were interviewed to gain an understanding on what language attitudes motivate or influence classroom discourse with respect to AAE. Findings reveal that students recognize there are benefits but also drawbacks to speaking AAE; they also recognize that there are positives and negatives concerning speaking Standard English. Teachers' language attitudes toward AAE differ slightly; all participant teachers believe that students should acquire Standard English, but they each cite different reasons. Essentially, there are two competing language ideologies reflected in participants' language attitudes and discourse. The first, Standard Language Ideology suggests that there is only one correct way to speak. The second, Language Validity Ideology continually attempts to validate the use of AAE by countering the dominant Standard Language Ideology.


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African American Students, Discourse, language, Language Attitudes, Language Ideologies, Middle School



Bicultural-Bilingual Studies