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Faculty Mentor

Jeremy Rud

Abstract

This research project explores the ways in which South Dakota State University students perceive speakers of African American Vernacular English (AAVE) in comparison to how they perceive speakers of Standard American English (SAE). Language ideologies affect these perceptions, and they largely exist on a subconscious level—therefore, I uncover them in order to discover how language ideologies affect SDSU. I conducted a matched-guise test with recordings by four speakers (two African American males, one African American female, and one mixed African American/White female). These speakers each made the first of two recordings in SAE and the second in AAVE. Out of the ten adjectives on which 30 SDSU student listeners judged the speakers, nine produced extremely significant results concerning difference in perception for AAVE and SAE. SAE speakers received significantly higher ratings for being intelligent, successful, nice, attractive, and professional, while AAVE speakers received significantly higher ratings for being aggressive, intimidating, improper, and vulgar. This creates problems because if the SDSU student population (on average) views AAVE-speaking students more negatively than SAE-speaking students, this might affect the way they treat AAVE speaking students. After completion of the matched-guise test, significant distinctions between perceptions of male speakers and female speakers became evident as well. Female speakers received significantly higher ratings for being intelligent, successful, nice, attractive, and professional, while male speakers received significantly higher ratings for being aggressive, intimidating, improper, and vulgar. In this essay, I present some of the social, educational, and professional implications that potentially exist due to these language ideologies and the perceptions they generate, and how this affects the students at SDSU. This study furthers our understanding of language ideologies—it demonstrates how language ideologies have less to do with language perception and more to do with prescriptive stereotypes influencing language perception.

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