Does contact with linguistics influence language attitudes? An analysis of factors influencing the attitudes toward African American Vernacular English

Buendgens-Kosten, Judith

Aachen University, Germany


According to the 'Pygmalion effect' (or 'Rosenthal effect') assumption, the attitudes' teachers have toward their students - including their students' language - can influence teacher expectations and, in the long run, students' educational chances. This is especially critical in the context of basilectal languages and language varieties, which might lead to lowered expectations in teachers with negative attitudes toward these languages and language varieties.

A number of linguists have suggested programs in linguistics as a 'remedy' for negative attitudes. Some have stressed the role of linguistics for attitude change rather strongly (e.g. Isma'il Abdul-Hakim and Gail Y. Okawa), others have suggested it as only one measure out of a whole catalog of suggestions, or recommended it regardless of its (assumed) limited effectiveness (e.g. Orlando Taylor, Roger W. Shuy, Robert L. Bowie and Carole L. Bond, John Baugh).

Though the claim of a relationship between language attitudes and linguistic knowledge as communicated in a e.g. an introductory lecture or an in-service teacher training course has frequently been made, it has not been tested as frequently. Additionally, those studies that did test this assumption have produced contradictory results. Bowie 1994 found a relationship between attitudes toward AAVE and contact with linguistics, while Blake 2003 and Abdul-Hakim 2002 did not. These mixed results show a demand for further research on this question.

In this study, I correlate attitudes toward AAVE and contact with linguistic using an ex-post-facto format. The attitudes of American teachers are measured using a Thurstone scale questionnaire. Contact with linguistics is measured via guided self-assessment.

If no relationship between contact with linguistics and language attitudes can be found, this will either imply that contact with linguistics does not influence language attitudes, or that traditional formats of teaching linguistics do not influence language attitudes. In both cases, a re-evaluation of existing teacher training models might be rewarding. If a relationship will be found, this will be strong support for the continuation and intensification of existing programs.


Abdul-Hakim, Isma'il. 2002. Florida preservice teachers' attitudes toward African American Vernacular English. Florida State University. . 7/23/2007.

Blake, Renée; Cutler, Cecilia. 2003. ''AAE and variation in teachers' attitudes: a question of school philosophy?''. Linguistics and education. 14,2, 163-194.

Bowie, Robert L.; Bond, Carole L. 1994. ''Influencing future teachers' attitudes toward Black English: are we making a difference?''. Journal of teacher education. 45,2, 112-118.

Session: Paper session
Attitude 5
Saturday, April 5, 2008, 11:00-12:30
room: 09