The influence of Black non-standard English on person perception


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The influence of Black non-standard English on person perception
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iv, 67 leaves : ill. ; 28 cm.
Craft, John Albert, 1953-
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Subjects / Keywords:
Black English -- Psychological aspects   ( lcsh )
Speech thesis Ph. D   ( lcsh )
Dissertations, Academic -- Speech -- UF   ( lcsh )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1981.
Bibliography: leaves 61-66.
Statement of Responsibility:
by John Albert Craft.
General Note:
General Note:

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University of Florida
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
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aleph - 000297312
oclc - 08375970
notis - ABS3685
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Full Text








ABSTRACT .................... ... ................ ... ii




Black Non-standard Dialect Defined.........
General Person Perception Research.........
Other Factors Influencing Perception.......
General Studies of Dialect.................
Studies of Black Non-standard Dialect......
Dialect and Scholastic Success.............
Purpose of the Study.......................
Hypotheses ................................

METHODS .............
Experimental Tape.
Rating Scales.....

........... ........ .

THREE RESULTS. ...................., ............... 48







........................ 56

........................ 60

........................ 61

.................... .... 67



Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy




December, 1981

Chairman: Dr. Norman N. Markel
Major Department: Speech

The need for and merits of bi-dialectalism are currently

an area of some controversy. Previous investigation suggests

that speakers of sitgmatized dialects of English in the U.S.A.

culture are at an evaluative disadvantage when compared with

speakers of General American dialect. These same studies

have consistently found that Black Non-standard dialect

is associated with very negative stereotypes. The studies

which have arrived at these conclusions are less than

compelling, however, due to a number of common methodological


This study was designed to test, under more stringent

conditions, the validity of the findings that BNS speakers

are at a disadvantage when compared to General American

speakers. In addition, an attempt was made to separate the

grammatical and phonological channels of speech in order to

identify the basis for speech linked stereotypes.


Spontaneous speech samples were collected from white

and black males of similar education and age describing a

non-salient landscape. These speech samples were then

transcribed. The scripts were then exchanged among groups

and re-recorded in an attempt to separate the two major

dimensions of speech: grammatical and phonological. The

16 speech samples were divided into 32, 15 second segments

(2 from each condition) and randomly ordered on a master

tape. This tape was then independently judged for dialect

representativeness by three dialect experts. Twenty-four

white female and twenty-four white male graduate business

students then rated the speech segments in terms of the

evaluative dimension of the semantic differential.

The results of a 3-factor ANOVA supported the hypothesis

that BNS speakers are negatively perceived as compared with

GA speakers. No difference was noted between male and female

raters. BNS speakers were not more negatively perceived

when using GA grammar. The major finding of this research

is a significant interaction between the phonological and

grammatical aspects of dialect.

Chapter ONE


Does it make a difference which dialect of American

English a person employs? Is there a preferred dialect

style? Are there depreciated or negatively perceived

dialects of American English? If so in which situations?

These and related questions have been the focus of

communication research since the early days of radio. On

a common sense level we are all aware that skin color, hair

texture, and physiological structure serve to distinguish

large groups of individuals. In a general way we are also

aware that these physical features often serve as clues to a

broad range of (physical traits and personality charac-

teristics) qualities, some factual and some imagined.

Research into listener reactions to various speech

styles takes notice of another distinguishing characteristic

that can label a speaker as readily as the traits mentioned

above. Recently articles and studies have delt with dialect

in general and the use of Black Non-standard Dialect


James Sledd, in a 1969 article, felt that the imposition

of "white" dialect on Black children is a cause of Black

"self hate." He rejected the idea that the use of Black Non-

standard English (hereinafter BNS) limits the upward mobility


of those who employ it. He concluded by suggesting that

it is impossible to effectively teach the Black student

"bi-dialectalism" (fluency in BNS as well as standard English)

because of the hostility and rejecting white dialect evokes

in the Black student's peer groupss. Sledd's views while

lacking in objectivity, still serve to indicate the strength

of emotion that is attached to a person's perception of a

style of speech.

Other studies (Belcher, 1977; Marino, 1977; Holt, 1978;

Quay and Mathews, 1977; Fetcher, 1978) have concluded that

the use of BNS to some degree inhibits the learning process of

the Black child. It is not the design or intention of this

study to promote or sponsor an argument in favor of any

position with regard to the use of BNS. This study is

designed to determine the affective consequences (if any) of

the use of BNS in the southeastern U.S.A. culture. This will

be accomplished by determine how people (Black, white, male,

female) react to the use of this dialectal style in comparison

with standard English, General American Dialect). Research

reviewed in this study suggests that Black Non-standard Dialect

speakers are at a perceptual disadvantage when compared with

General American Dialect speakers (hereinafter GA). This

cannot be stated more definitely, however, due to several

methodological flaws (present in most research in the field)

which may dilute or confound the generalizability of the

extant experimental results.


Before these previous studies are reviewed it would be

advisable to describe what BNS is. Proponents of the

unstigmatized use of BNS contend that it should be

recognized as a legitimate speech style. Smith, in his

book (Trans Racial Communication, 1973), states that Black

English has its roots in Black Africa. According to

Smith, Black English borrowed English vocabulary and

retained African grammatical elements. He contends that

Black English is not incorrect English for it has its own

regularized grammar and predictable grammatical pattern.

Rich (1974) also feels that BNS is a legitimate speech

style which represents the Black cultural experience in

the United States.

Even so, Rich notes that dialects and accents pose

two problems, First, they pose a barrier to simple under-

standing insofar as they disrupt information transfer.

Second, she notes that negative reactions to certain dialects

can cause listeners to "turn off" a speaker, and to

disregard the content of his message.

Carter (1977) notes that Black English employs

alternate verb forms, deviate phonology, and alternate

communication styles such as "shucking" and "rapping."

Carter reports that the function of these alternate styles

is to allow users an acceptable level of self respect in

"no-win" situations, involving the power group. These

alternate styles developed as a reflection of Black social

and cultural experiences. In terms of operationalizing

(BNS),Hoover (1978) characterized Black English as differing
from Anglo Saxon English (GA) in the following ways:

(1) weak final consonants, unless grammar is affected
(not dropping the ed to signify past tense); (2) simplified
consonant clusters; and (3) general "1" and "r" lessness.
A general set of features which distinguishes black
from white dialects is as follows (Bailey, 1965); (Stewart,

1. Clear /1/ in prevocalic position
2. Bilabial (sic) aspirants, /0/ and /e/, replaced

/b/ and /f/, respectively.

3. /b/, /d/, and /g/ as fully voiced imploded stops
(positions not specified by authors)
4. Neutralization of final /m/ and /n/, with a

resulting nasalization of the preceding vowel

5. /f/ and /v/ as bilabial spirants
6. Absence of the copula

7. Absence of the possessive morpheme
8. Was used for the completed past, and been
for the past, up to and including the present
9. Be for durative aspect or future, and gonna
for the conditional future
10. They and you for their and your, respectively.
Before speaking directly to the question of the evaluational
consequences of BNS, a brief review of general research in
the person perception area is appropriate.


General Person Perception Research.

The earliest vocal characteristic research was radio

related. Research by Cantril and Allport (1943), Fay and

Middleton (1939) and Taylor (1934) found listeners to be

only moderately accurate in judging the sex and age of a

speaker and somewhat less accurate in inferring occupation,

height, weight and appearance. Is it interesting to note

that no characteristic was judged correctly all of the time,

and furthermore, judges tended to agree more with each other

than with actual speaker characteristics. This general

agreement among perceptions, combined with little better than

chance accuracy, suggests that the judges were responding to

stereotyped perceptions of certain vocal traits, rather than

genuine speech based clues of personality and physical

characteristics. Later studies (Licklider and Miller, 1951;

Kramer, 1963) also found that evaluations of personality,

based solely on voice, have little or no accuracy.

Research with psychiatric patients conducted by Markel

et al. (Markel, Meisels and Houck, 1964; Markel, 1969) has

shown some success in identifying speech traits of

schizophrenic individuals that accurately predicted aspects

of personality. A later study by Markel (1972) with non-

psychiatric patients found that trained judges could

isolate some general personality traits with accuracy

from brief, spontaneous, taped passages. In general

though, research suggests that in most situations

very little can be accurately inferred about an individual

based solely on his vocal style. This is not to say, however,

that nothing is suggested about an individual by his voice.

On the contrary, many studies have identified strong

stereotypical associations with certain vocal characteristics.

Addington, in a (1968) study, examined the premise that

certain voices are stereotypes; they definitely impress

listeners as being the voice of persons who might be

classified (according to one or another personality types).

Addington contends that our voices elicit stereotypes of

personality which may or may not be consistent with more

valid assessment techniques. He investigated the relation-

ships among nine vocal characteristics and forty

personality characteristics. Using a methodology typical

of most research in the field, Addington recorded male and

female speakers imitating seven voice qualities (breathy,

tense, thin, flat, throaty, nasal, orotund, rate and pitch

variety) while reading a standardized (non-spontaneous)

passage. The recorded samples were first judged by experts

for validity and then evaluated by college freshmen.

The experimental subjects were found to ascribe specific

personality traits from certain vocal qualities. Further,

these noted ascriptions tended to be uniform, supporting

the premise that the evaluators shared stereotypes of

certain speech cues. In short, it was found that vocal

manipulations do affect the nature of personality

perception. Each of Addington's vocal characteristics

(with one exception) was effective in altering the listener's

image of the speaker.

Although the 40 perceptual categories and 9 vocal

characteristics are not exhaustive, Addington's results

suggest that many speech based variables such as word

choice, intensity, disfluencies and dialect have the

potential to color a listener's perception of a speaker.

Other Factors Influencing Perception.

Intuitively we recognize that the actual words an

individual employs can potentially influence the way he or

she is perceived. Language intensity is one area which

research has determined can alter a speaker's perception

by an audience. Bowers (1964) determined that the use of

intense terms (terms that strongly suggest emotions, death,

sex, etc..), multisyllable words that connote strength and

indicate direction of attitude, favorably influence

perceptions of a speaker. McEwen and Greenberg (1970)

in an investigation of intensity and credibility found that

sources employing highly intense terms were perceived as

more dynamic than sources using less intense terms. Another

area of non-dialectally based variation in person perception

is vocalized non-fluencies. Studies of the relationship

between speech fluency and source perception are few and

have generally been concerned with some aspect of credibility.

Miller and Hewgill in a (1964) study examined the

influence of vocalized non-fluency on speaker credibility.

Non-fluencies were operationalized in this study as vocalized

pauses and repetition. The authors recorded several versions

of a persuasive message with various levels of non-fluency

present. These taped passages were evaluated by experimental
subjects with regard to three levels of source credibility;

competence, trustworthiness and dynamism. The findings of

this study suggested that as the frequency of non-fluencies

increases in a speech, audience ratings of perceived source

credibility decrease. Specifically, audience ratings of a

speaker's trustworthiness were most negatively correlated

with the incidence of vocalized non-fluencies. A similar

study by Sereno and Hawkins (1967) investigated a number

of other non-fluencies. In this investigation the authors

manipulated five categories of non-fluency: (1) The "ah"

sound or vocalized pause, (2) Sentence correction- a correction

in the choice of words, (3) Stuttering, i.e., the serial

superfluous repetition of words, and (5) Tongue-slip correction,

a correction of an unintended sound. All five categories

were simulated by a speaker in a persuasive speech about

Black Muslims. Several tape recordings were made of the

speech with various levels of non-fluency present. The

recordings were presented to experimental subjects. The

speakers were evaluated by these subjects over a number

of dimensions designed to measure the persuasiveness of the

speeches and perceptions of source credibility.

It was found that varying amounts of non-fluencies

did not diminish the persuasiveness of the speech. The

perceived credibility of the speaker was, however, adversely

affected by increases in vocalized non-fluency. Specifically,

non-fluencies were found to negatively correlate with

perceptions of a speakers dynamism and competence.

The foregoing reviews represent an overview of studies

that have dealt with the general, non-dialectal aspects

of a person's speech style. Judging from these studies, it

is obvious that the way we speak can and does affect the

way we are perceived.

The studies that follow investigated the variables of

status, background, and dialect with regard to their influence

on a speaker's perception.

An early study by Putnam and O'Hern (1955) investigated

the relationships between speech style and status. They

recorded samples of speech from twelve speakers of different

social and educational backgrounds. University students

were asked to judge the speakers' status and background after

listening to the tapes. Putnam and O'Hern found that subjects

were able to somewhat accurately (mean correlation = .80)

discern the speakers' background and status.

Harms (1961) in a similar study attempted to (1) obtain

subjective listener judgments of speaker status and compare

them with an objective status index; (2) determine the

perceived credibility of speakers from different status groups,

and (3) determine how accurate listeners could be in judging

status from voice. Nine speakers provided the stimulus

material for this experiment. All were, (1) male, (2) 30-50

years of age, and (3) had lived all their life in the American

Midwest. The speakers were classified into two status groups

based on education and occupation. Three were classified as

high status. They held advanced degrees (DDS,PhD) and had

prestige occupations. Those classified as middle class (3)

held middle status occupations and had completed high school

and/or one year of college. The final three speakers were

classified as lower class. This group had eighth grade

educations and held unskilled jobs.

Each speaker made a 40-60 second field tape recording.

The material was elicited by having each speaker respond to

questions and statements on cards, such as "How are you?",

"Ask for the time," etc.. The recorded conversations were

non-socially salient and were similar to the kind of talk

usually associated with introductory situations. One

hundred and eighty non-college adults living in Columbus,

Ohio, served as subjects for this experiment. These listeners

were classified according to status in the same manner as the

speaker. Each speaker was heard by 60 listeners (20 from

each status group); listening was done in settings as diverse

as firehouses, living rooms and church basements.

Most listeners reported making their judgments of both

status and credibility after hearing only 10 or 15 seconds

of speech, even though the recorded samples ran 40-60 seconds.

Harms felt that perhaps a listener notices pronunciation

and other stereotyped features most readily after he responds

to some yet-to-be identified microscopic speech cues. Harms

stated his findings as follows:

-(1) Listeners of all statuses on hearing short

voice recordings assign mean ratings which

group speakers in accordance with their

objectively measured status; listeners

distinguish among speakers according to status;

(2) Listeners of various statuses agree on the

amount of credibility they assign to speakers

of various statuses; listeners find high status

speakers to be most credible and low status

speakers to be the least credible;

(3) The correlation between ratings of status

and credibility is significant statistically,

but cannot be said to be high socially." p 168

It is interesting to note Harm's speculation that some

microscopic speech variable could be responsible for the

varying perceptions of speakers by listeners. It is

possible that intonation or some phonological speech

difference could serve to label a given speaker. Obviously

the listeners were responding to some consensually held speech

based perceptions that transcended their own status group.

The foregoing studies suggest that status (actual or

stereotyped) to some extent can be judged from non-accented

speech. In the Harms study the speakers and listeners were

all from Ohio, an area which is characterized by accentlesss"

General American Dialect. Common sense and experience tell

us that spoken language can be a identifying feature of

members of a national or cultural group. Individuals in

these regional or national groups are easily identifiable by

their accent or dialectal speech patterns alone.

Some General Studies of Dialect and Perception.

Lambert, Hodgson and Gardner (1960), in the first of a

series of studies on evaluation reactions to spoken languages,

attempted to evaluate the effect dialect has on person

perception. Lambert theorized that because the use of the

language is one aspect of behavior common to a variety of

individuals, hearing the language is likely to arouse mainly

generalized or stereotyped characteristics of the group.

This suggests that when a radio broadcast of an international

meeting or passages of a foreign language are encountered, a

person's evaluational reactions to that communication are based,

in part, on a generalized attitudinal reaction to the group that

uses the particular language or dialect.

The purpose of Lambert's study was to determine the

significance spoken language has for listeners by analyzing

their evaluational reactions. The study was conducted in

the Canadian Province of Quebec, an area charged with

rivalry between French and English speaking groups.

Lambert felt that this schism is as socially significant

for residents of Quebec as that of the North and South

for southern residents of the United States.

To test their theory, Lambert and associates, translated

a 2.5 minute passage of French prose (basically non-salient)

into fluent English. This passage was then recorded in

French and English by four male bilinguals. Each subject

recorded in both English and French. Two other males

recorded French and English versions as fillers. The ten

taped passages were then exposed to both French and English

speaking natives. The subjects were not informed that the

speakers were bilingual. The subjects were then asked to

complete a response sheet for each voice which directed them

to rate each of 14 traits on six point scales. These scales

rated physical and personality traits. English speaking

subjects, as expected, showed more favorableness to members

of their linguistic group. Surprisingly, French subjects

also rated English speakers more favorably.

French subjects perceived English speakers as having

more favorable physical and personality traits than speakers

of their own language. Lambert felt that these findings

are similar to other studies (Adelson (1953); Sarnoff (1951);

Steckler (1957)) which have noted the tendency of minority

groups (as the French are in this case) to sometimes adopt

the stereotyped values of the majority groups. The French

subjects may regard themselves as members of an inferior

group. Since the French and English versions were recorded

by the same subject the listeners had to have based their

evaluations on community wide stereotypes of both groups.

In a similarly oriented (1962) study, Anisfeld, Boco

and Lambert investigated evaluational reactions to accented

English speech. This study was intended to continue on

the findings of the aforementioned Quebec Study. Lambert

and associates attempted to extend the implications and

rationale of his previous study to Jewish people who speak

English with a distinctive accent. Specifically, the study

was undertaken to find out whether Jewish and English

subjects will evaluate differently Jewish and English speech

guises when spoken by the same person.

As in the Quebec experiment, "bilingual" speakers recorded

a non-salient passage in both English and Jewish accented

English. English and Jewish accented English speaking

subjects were exposed to the recording and asked to evaluate

the speakers physiological and personality traits.

Similar to the Quebec study English speaking subjects

did not rate Jewish accented speakers favorably on any trait.

Jewish subjects rated English speakers as more physically

attractive and better leaders. Jewish subjects felt Jewish

speakers were more entertaining, kinder, and had a better

sense of humor.

A variable not present in the Quebec study was the

possibility of incorrectly identifying the speaker's guise.

Since both speakers in this study used English it was

possible for listeners incorrectly to identify the

speaker's accent. In fact, listeners did make this

mistake, although not in sufficient numbers to warrant a

statistical analysis. It was found, however, that Jewish

subjects tended to assign Jewish guises to non-Jewish

speakers and the Gentile subjects exhibited a reverse

tendency, in that they identified less accented guises as

Jewish. As with the subjects correctly identifying the

guises, Jewish speakers were downgraded on physical and

personality ratings. In comparing the correctly identified

guises, very little difference between the two groups'

reactions was found.

Jewish and Gentile listeners were also asked to

evaluate the voices of their own ethnic groups. These

ratings were grouped into three clusters: "General evaluation"

which included ratings of good looks, self confidence, ambition,

sociability, character and likeability," secondly,

"dependability, and character," and thirdly, "affability."

These three clusters seem to answer the following

questions: "Am I good or bad?" "Can people count on me?"

and "Am I desired as a friend?" Jewish subjects rated

themselves more favorably than did the Gentile subjects

on all clusters and individual traits except religiousness.

As was previously stated, Jewish subjects categorized more

voices as Jewish than did Gentile subjects.

The most prominent finding of the study is the down-

grading of the accented guises on height, good looks, and

leadership. This reaction occurs in both incorrect and

correct identification, by both Jews and Gentiles. This

suggests that it was not the Jewish speaker specifically,

but any person speaking with an accent (Irish, Negro,

Southern, New York, etc). Since the evaluations were

depicted in relation to the accented and non-accented voices

of the same speaker, it seems unlikely that the basic

quality of the voice played any part in eliciting reactions.

As suggested by the previously cited research, it

appears likely that the accented voices aroused certain

perceptual stereotypes which had been acquired through

previous experience. Leadership devaluation can possibly

be based on the tendency of accented speakers to be

immigrants. The authors suggested that an immigrant might

not be expected to occupy positions of leadership and might

logically be considered as possessing few leadership qualities.

The devaluations of height and appearance can possibly

be explained by previous research, Bruner and Goodman (1947),

Carter and Schooler (1949), and Lambert et al. (1969),

which suggests that magnitude is a close associate of value.

By extension (to the realm of person perception) it is possible

that immigrants, who historically have been afforded low

status roles, would be regarded as short and unattractive.

In contrast with the Quebec experiment, where the

French minority consistently devaluated themselves, there

was a tendency for Jewish subjects to maintain Jewish

superiority when comparing Jews with non-Jews. The Jewish

subject allowed for some superiority of their "immigrant"

co-religionists as well. It appears that Jews have not wholly

adopted negative stereotypes concerning Jews in general

(as had the French); on the contrary, Jews appear to have

adopted positive stereotypes concerning Jews, even for

Jewish immigrants.

There are several possible explanations for these

findings, as Lambert suggests. Since the Jewish accented

speech was an adoptive guise for the speakers, their

unfamiliarity with this mode could have caused a hesitance

which resulted in the devaluated ratings of self-confidence.

Similarly, Jewish listeners could have been more sensitive

to the Jewish guises due to their greater familiarity with

them. Finally, in contrast with the French, Jews might

consider themselves a superior minority.

In the present study,the difficulty of judging people

accurately from their voices is again evident. The subjects

apparently seized upon whatever information was available

to them. The main sources of information were community-

wide stereotypes about people with accents. This study

thus reinforces the findings that stereotypes are functional

in prompting subjectively or objectively correct judgments

and need not necessarily function to justify prejudiced

attitudes or satisfy personality needs.

In a similar study, Lambert, Anisfeld and Yeni-

Komshian (1965) investigated the evaluational reactions of

Jewish and Arab adolescents to dialect variations. As in

the French Canadian example, bilingual speakers were

recorded in several language modes, i.e., variations of

Hebrew and Arabic. Taped sequences were evaluated by Arab

and Jewish adolescents. Evaluational scores were recorded

on a semantic differential style scale.

As in the previous studies, speech based stereotypes

were found to be operating along predictable ethonocentric

skews. Arab Ss found the recorded individuals in the

Jewish guise less capable, less dependable and less desirable

than speakers in the Arabic mode. Conversely, Jewish Ss

showed a marked preference for speakers of Hebrew. Further,

the Jewish Ss were found to prefer one specific dialect of

Hebrew (Ashkenazic) over another (Yemenite). As in the

Hebrew-Arabic comparison, negative ascriptions were

registered for speakers of Yemenite Hebrew.

Generally speakers who sound "foreign" to a particular

group of listeners tend to be rated lower than speakers

who do not. Mulac, Hanley and Prigge (1974) assume that

the findings of Lambert and associates dialect studies

were the results of the listener's reactions to one or more

of the three elements of the speaker's linguistic

presentation: phonology, semantics and syntax.

It was the purpose of Mulac, Hanley and Prigge's (1974)

study to determine the impact of phonological aspects of

European born persons' speech upon attitudinal judgments

made by several groups of American listeners. The thrust

of this investigation follows the findings of previous studies

by assuming that the way a given communication sounds (as

opposed to what it means) determines how the speaker is


Four independent variables were manipulated in this study:

(1) Listener sex; (2) Listener age, occupation group (middle

aged, middle class townspeople and college students); (3)

Speaker sex; (4) Speaker country of origin (Norway, Italy,

Eastern Europe and United States). Twenty-six foreign born

graduate students were recorded during impromptu monologues

in English. An important methodological divergence of this

study was the feeling that spontaneous conversations sound

more natural than the prepared passages of Lambert and others.

Content was controlled by asking the speakers to

describe two large landscape pictures, while refraining

from mentioning his or her native country, language, age or

field of study. The speakers were originally from the

previously indicated areas in Europe and the United States.

Male and female speakers were employed. The 16 samples

determined to be most representative were selected for use

in the experiment. Speaker sex and origin were randomly

assigned to a 45 minute master tape. For purposes of

measurement the experimenters devised a speech dialect

attitudinal scale. This instrument consisted of a scale

of 50 bi-polar adjectives designed to test the orthogonal

dimensions along which speech foreignness is judged. Three

factors were established for the final factor solution:

socio-intellectual status, aesthetic quality, and dynamism.

Middle aged, middle class townspeople (26 males- 26 females)

and university students (25 males- 15 females) served as

experimental listeners. The subjects were all exposed to

the same 45 minute tape and asked to complete the rating

instrument. The results of this study corroborated the

earlier findings of Lambert. Greater degrees of phonological

speech foreignness exhibited by the twelve European born

speakers elicited lower judgments on all three attitude

dimensions than similar American born speakers. The initial

findings of Lambert were confirmed in this experiment, even

though many other variables were manipulated and a different

experimental method was utilized. In addition,this

preference for non-accented English was operative across

sex and status lines.

A (1967) study by Markel, Eisler and Reese investigated

the influence a person's dialect exercises on perceptions

of his personality. Taped samples of speakers with

Buffalo, New York,and New York, New York,"dialects" were

recorded reading a standard passage. These speech samples

were then evaluated by a group of undergraduates enrolled

in the State University of New York at Buffalo. These

experimental subjects evaluated the taped speakers via a

semantic differential scale. Markel found that linguistically

naive decoders were sensitive to a dialect variation of

their language and this dialect stimulated a stereotypic

response concerning the personality characteristics of the

speakers of that dialect.

Studies involving Chicanos and American subjects have

also revealed devaluation and ethnic reactions similar to

Lambert's studies. In a series of "wrong number" experiments

(whereby the speaker would "accidentally" call the experimental

subject), Harris and Baudin (1973) found that Chicano subjects

helped a Spanish surnamed confederate who spoke Spanish more

than one who spoke English (this suggests that the language

may have cued an ethnic sympathy reaction similar to that

of the Jewish subjects in the Lambert experiment).

Building on the findings of her first study, Harris

further predicted that a Spanish accent for Spanish surnamed

subjects would have the same effect. Harris theorized that

Anglo subjects would be more aggressive and less helpful

to a caller with a Spanish accent and Spanish surnamed

subjects would be more aggressive and less helpful to

callers with an English (Anglo) accent.

Harris used a methodology similar to her pilot

experiment. Forty-eight Spanish surnamed and forty-eight

Anglo surnamed telephone numbers were randomly selected from

the telephone book. Bilingual female subjects called these

numbers in either the guise of Spanish accented or non-accented

"wrong numbers." The responses of the "wrong number" answerers

were recorded and evaluated.

The results of this study supported the idea that

prejudice against people with Spanish accents does exist;

it provided no support, however, for the idea that Spanish

surnamed subjects would be less aggressive and more helpful

to someone with a Spanish accent. Harris found that all

subjects (both Spanish and Anglo), who became more aggressive

as the call went on, were in the Spanish accented condition.

These findings partially contradict Harris's expectations,

but lend added support to Lambert's findings of prejudice

toward all accented speech. On the basis of Lambert's

Quebec experiment, it could be theorized that the Mexican

subjects responded unfavorably to Spanish accented callers

due to a stereotype of ethnic inferiority. This would

correlate closely with Lambert's rationale for similar

responses by the French ethnic group.

In the foregoing studies listeners were able to make

credibility and personality judgments based on stereotypes

associated with certain speech characteristics. It is

significant to note, however, that listeners were not able

to identify which language features acted as cues for

these judgments.

Studies of Black Non-standard Dialect.

The final area of dialect research to be reviewed in

this work deals with the perceptual consequences of employing

Black Non-standard English in the U.S.A. culture. It is

this body of research which instigated the present study.

In general, these studies have employed methodologies

identical to the more general studies in the voice/perception


Lambert (and Tucker) employed techniques similar to

his earlier investigations in a (1969) study testing reactions

to various American English dialects. In this study Lambert

attempted to answer the following questions: (1) Are both

Negro and white subjects sensitive enough to dialect

variations to make reliable differentiations? (2) If so,

will there emerge a meaningful pattern of dialect preferences,

i.e., some particularly favored and others disfavored? A

rating instrument was devised for this study by asking

Southern Black college students to indicate those traits

they felt were most important for friendship and success.

Their responses were tabulated and ranked in order of

popularity. They were then asked to assign synonyms and

free associations to the trait names. Dialect samples were

selected by trained dialectologists. Recordings were made

of four representatives of each of the following six dialect groups:

(1) Network English ("middle American dialect")

(2) College educated white southern speakers

(3) College educated Negro southern speakers

(4) College educated Negro speakers from Mississippi

currently attending college in Washington, D.C.

(5) Southern Negro students (peer group) who spoke a

dialect similar to that used by students at the

Black college where testing was conducted

(6) Alumni from a New York City College.

Speakers in groups 1 and 2 were white, while the

remaining speakers were Black. Each speaker recorded an

identical short, non-salient passage. Both male and

female speakers were used, except in category 2 (due to

and oversight), which included only males. The 24 recordings

were placed on two tapes, twelve speakers on each.

The listening subjects were Negro male and female college

under-graduates from a southern Negro college, white male and

female students from a New England college, and white male

and female students attending a southern university, The

students serving as judges in all three cases were asked

to listen to the voices and to evaluate each speaker in

terms of a 15 trait scale devised by Lambert.

Lambert and Tucker found only a few instances where

sex differences in response occurred ( in these the females

tended to rate the speakers slightly more favorably), so

the ratings of the males and females were combined.

Statistical analysis clearly demonstrated that each

group was able to differentiate the various dialects. All

three rating groups (nearly unanimously), perceived the

network speakers as having the most favorable profile of


The dialect group rated next most favorably by both

northern white and southern Negro judges was the educated

southern Negro. Southern white judges on the other hand

rated members of their own peer group next most favorably.

Southern white students rated educated Negro southern

speakers third.

In terms of the least favored group, Negro judges

rated educated white southern speakers least favorably on

every one of the 15 traits. Whereas, white judges, both

northern and southern, rated the Mississippi peer speakers

least favorably and the New York alumni speakers only

slightly higher.

The two groups of white judges were also asked to

indicate which race they thought the speakers-were.

Northern whites estimated race with the following accuracy

for the six dialects: Network 95% white, educated white

southern 87% white, New York alumni 49% black, educated

Negro southern 49% black, Howard University 85% black,

Miss. peer 94% black. White southern judges estimates were:

(1) 98% white, (2) 96% white, (3) 47% black, (4) 54% black,

(5) 70% black, (6) 89% black, respectively for the above
six dialects. Southern whites were slightly more accurate

in race estimation than northern whites, but in most cases

the true race of the speakers was judged a majority of the


In general, subjects were clearly able to differentiate

the dialect groups and they clearly favored the network

style of spoken English. Lambert and Tucker felt the

different perspectives of blacks and whites (with regard

to least favorable) reflect basic comparisons in effectively

toned attitudes that representatives of America's major

ethnic groups hold toward one another. The contrasts

also make it evident that speech styles which are pleasing

to one social group will not necessarily be so perceived

by another.

Buck, in a similar study (1968),attempted to

measure the effect that a non-standard dialect has on

perceptions of the speaker. In this experimental investi-

gation Buck dealt with non-standard "New York" versions

of black and white speech. Speech samples were recorded

of standard and non-standard speakers reading a passage of

Alice in Wonderland. Buck found that both white and black

speakers employing non-standard dialectal speech styles

were devaluated. Black and white standard speakers were

perceived by the experimental Ss as more competent. In

general, the experimental Ss preferred the "standard" New

York dialect.

Buck's report of her methodology is rather brief and

as a result it is difficult to evaluate its validity. The

sample size was small (N=25); neither the particular scales

employed nor a tabulation of results was provided. Speech

samples were elicited via a script reading situation which

would serve to stifle spontaneity and standardize word

choice. Both of these dimensions could significantly

influence the ratings a speaker received.

Bochner and Bochner in a (1974) study explored the

relationship between American social status and social

dialect. The lack of systematic descriptions of listeners

and speakers, listener attitudes toward speakers and

language cues used in forming listener judgments of speakers,

and dialects in previous studies was avoided.

Ninety-six undergraduate subjects were ranked in

one of three social categories (high, middle and low)

based on their occupation, education and residence.

Linguistic samples representing urban Boston (deemed

upper class) and the Black ghetto, Washington, D.C. (deemed

lower class) were prepared. Two messages identical in

semantic content, but differing in syntactical and lexical

choice were prepared. Both messages were recorded by

native speakers of the respective dialects. Each

experimental subject heard only one message. No information

pertaining to the source was supplied. Factor analysis for

the experimental sample was conducted across 18 scales

of authority and 18 scales of character.

Subjects responded very positively to the standard

English high status syntactical patterns. Conversely,

subjects evaluated negatively non-standard low status

speakers. According to Bochner and Bochner these findings

support the premise forwarded by most American linguists: Syntax

(word arrangement) does differentiate dialect. Further-

more, Bochner and Bochner theorized that listener status

plays a weak role in speaker evaluations. The determinant

may well be the norm of the listeners linguistic community.

This finding is substantially the same as Lambert's, Harris's,

and others' findings of preference for a dialect other than

the listeners own. In this study all subjects, regardless

of their own social status, held as their linguistic norm

white standard American English. The positive responses

to high status dialect confirm this preference.

The negative responses were viewed as rejections of

a racial minority linguistic norm of which the subjects

had no part. Some evidence, although slight, was found

indicating perhaps certain verbal structures may affect

the reaction to the meaning of a given sentence more than


Dialect and status effects were found for isolated

vocabulary pairs along lexicon (diction) factor dimensions.

These results suggest that while subjects did not respond

to vocabulary as an exclusive indicator of dialect, they

may have responded to vocabulary as an indicator of social

status. This may be an effect of the aesthetic or intense

quality of the language used. It is possible that differing

groups hold different views of what is linguistically


As in the previous attitude studies, high status

(standard English) speakers were positive. Conversely, low

status speakers were devaluated. Bochner and Bochner feel this

may also be a result of the linguistic norm of the

listeners. They theorize that the dialect of the low

status speakers served to identify them as non-members

of the community. In addition, middle status (class)

listeners were the most uniform in their preference for

standard English speakers across the scales.

In conclusion, Bochner and Bochner present the

following five conclusions with regard to speaker ethos

based on social dialect:

"(1) A person's response to the dialect speech

of another is not uni-dimensional. Three

dimensions reflecting the factor structures

of this investigation were response to

meaning, response to grammar, and

response to aesthetic quality.

(2) Syntactical cues appear to be primary in

listener-differentiation of dialects.

(3) The social dialect of a speaker may

influence listener judgments of his

character, but not of his authority in

a given situation.

(4) Persons of differing social status who

nevertheless subscribe to a similar set

of linguistic norms are not likely to

make significantly different judgments

about another's dialect.

(5) Dialect in speech is more likely to be a

significant determinant of speaker ethos

for persons of middle social status than

for persons of higher or lower social status."p82

The findings that syntax is the primary cue in listener-

differentiation of dialects does have some support. It is

important to note that the primary determinant of the results

of this study (syntax) was pre-prepared rather than

spontaneous. This fact could possibly diminish the

generalizability of the results.

The conclusions and contradictions of Bochner and

Bochner's study serve to underscore the tentative nature of

similar experiment's findings. Their apparent refutation

of the belief that "intonation" plays a major role in

person perception may, however, be a consequence of a faulty

research design. Like most other researchers in the field,

Bochner and Bochner utilized a carefully worded prepared

statement as their experimental stimulus. It may well be

that in their attempt to guard against content reactions

to their recorded stimulus they over-compensated and

confounded their findings anyway. Although prepared scripts

insure content free dialogue, the mere fact that they are

contrived and not spontaneous may have an influence.

On a common sense level it is apparent that naturally

occurring evaluational reactions would, of course, occur

as the result of spontaneous encounters. Further, in

those situations where a speakers discourse is not

spontaneous (i.e. speeches, presentations, plays, etc.), it

can be assumed that the speaker is familiar with the text,

either through composing or rehearsing it. This element

of naturalness is decidedly lacking in the foregoing

studies utilizing prepared scripts.

A study by Linn (1975) described the attitudes of black

and white adolescent and pre-adolescent youths toward black

English. Specifically, it looked for an impact of the

"Black is beautiful" movement on Black and white Americans.

The methodology developed by Lambert (bi-dialectal speakers)

was employed. Sixth grade and high school students

listened to taped segments of three black speakers in

two "guises," standard and non-standard English. They

then evaluated them on a number of personality traits.

Whites and blacks judged the standard English speaker to be

smarter, nicer, better educated, richer, less prejudiced and

more interpersonally oriented. Blacks rated the Black

English speaker as taller, better looking, and better liked,

while whites judged the standard English speaker to possess

those qualities.

Delia (1975) investigated the effect that a speech

style has on the way the spoken message is processed.

Specifically, Delia predicted that when a listener makes

evaluations based on perceived incongruity (between his

and the heard speech style) he will anticipate certain

attitudes, opinions and values in the speaker. Secondly,

Delia expected to find that speakers employing stereo-

typical impressions will continue to use them until they

are disproven. Via a methodology using the familiar tactic

of pre-recorded script speech samples,Delia confirmed

his hypothesis that listeners assume incongruity (of ideas)

with speakers employing different speech styles than their

own. As a result listeners orient themselves toward

speakers based upon the evoked "stereotypical guidelines"

until further information confirms or contradicts them.

The results of Delia's study underscore the negative

effects of certain dialectal styles. Not only do they

color the way we perceive a speaker,but also they serve

as tentative indicators of his or her attitudes and

allegiance. Delia's results cannot be taken as the last

word on the subject, however. The subjects were only asked to

estimate the degree of similarity/dissimilarity in the

abstract. The introduction of specific topics and attitude

areas may have some influence on his findings.

Gardner and Taylor's (1968) study somewhat supports

these findings. Their study of ethnic stereotypes in

social pressure situations found subjects employed stereo-

typical responses when confronted with ethnic speech styles.

Their findings suggest that in the absence of other

information evaluational responses based on speech tend to

conform more closely with ethnic stereotypes.

In an interesting (1973) study, Green investigated

the evaluations of Black Non-standard dialect by both

black and white speech therapists. Green asked 24 white

speech therapists to identify articulation errors in the

speech of standard speaking and non-standard speaking

black children. A team of Black speech pathologists

sophisticated in Black English also rated the taped speech

samples. The ratings were compared for agreement. The

findings indicate that disagreements between therapists

and judges were a function of Black English rather than

degree of deficiency. Specifically, the white and Black

judges agreed about the errors present in the standard

English sample but disagreed when evaluating Black dialect

speech samples. Whites perceived more errors than Blacks.

It is interesting that the negative perceptions of Black

Non-standard English color even objective evaluations

of articulation by professionally trained judges.

The foregoing research findings suggest that the use

of Black Non-standard English negatively colors the way an

individual is perceived over a number of personality and

physical characteristic dimensions. It also appears

that a person's vocal style, in this case Black Non-

standard English, provides (stereotypical) clues to the

users' attitudes and interpersonal orientation. Specifically,

the research findings suggest that if a listener perceives

a difference between his speech style and that of a given

speaker he anticipates a corresponding difference between

his beliefs and values and those of the "different"

sounding speaker.

Dialect and Scholastic Success.

In the last few years many studies of Black Non-standard

English have found that as a speech style it also exerts

an influence on perceptions of a person's performance in

a number of areas. It is potentially possible that

remediation of negatively perceived speech styles could

potentially produce results similar to the transformation in

Shaw's Pygmalion. To this end recent studies have investigated

the effect of ethnic stereotyping on teachers' expectations

and evaluations of student performance, as teachers along

with all people represent their background and fields of

experience. Recent research in the area of teachers'

subjective evaluations of students based on speech has been

conducted. Basing their research on Bernstein's (1968)

theory of elaborate and restricted codes and their socio-

economic determinate, Lambert, Frender and Brown (1970)

investigated the role of speech characteristics in scholastic


In their study, French Canadian third grade boys were

compared with regard to verbal intelligence and speech

characteristics. Both groups came from lower social class

homes. The independent variable was school performance.

Speech samples were elicited from both groups of Ss. It

was found that the groups differed reliably in verbal

intelligence and speech characteristics. Even with

verbal intelligence statistically controlled distinctive

speech patterns differentiated the groups. Speakers'

speech styles were found to differ significantly along a

set of dimensions that were demonstrated to affect their

interpersonal perceptions. Specifically, those third

graders receiving the poorest marks in class also received

the lowest speech style evaluations.

Conversely, "proper" speech styles were an accurate

predictor of good grades. Even when verbal intelligence

was similar it was found that a lower class youngster's

style of speech may mark or caricature him and thus

adversely affect his opportunities to improve, including

his opportunity in school performance. These findings

conflict with Bernstein's "restricted code" theory in that

presentational qualities (intonation, pitch, etc.) not

terms employed, played the key role.

Williams, Whitehead and Miller (1971) set out to

analyze the "pygmalion effect," the attitudes which

language characteristics may elicit in listeners. This

study focused upon teachers' stereotyping of pupils.

Specifically, they tested the degree to which visual

cues of a child's ethnicity will influence judgments of

a standard English speech sample. Prior research showed

that some teachers incorrectly rated the speech and

language of particular children in video taped speech

samples. They matched some standard English samples with

video images of Black, white, and Mexican children.

It was found that the video tape image showing the

child's ethnicity affects ratings of his language in the

direction of racial stereotyping. For Black children the

bias was in the direction of expecting them to sound more

ethnic and non-standard than their white peers.

Although this study does not deal with the actual

consequences of using non-standard English it is an

interesting documentation of the expectations ethnicity

elicits with regards to speech stereotypes.

Williams (1970), in another study investigating the

consequences of Black English, examined the influence a

student's speech style has on teacher evaluations.

Taped samples of fifth and sixth grade children

(from Detroit schools) were played to 33 primary school

teachers. Students were ranked beforehand via their

socio-economic status as high or low status. Teachers

were asked to evaluate the "correctness" of the child's

speech style via a semantic differential type scale.

The teachers were able to make statistically reliable

differentiations of the Black children's social status

but not of the white children. White teacher's evaluations

reflected a direct association between race and status.

White teachers more strongly associated speech standardness

with social status than did black teachers.

Piche, Michlin, Rubin and Sullivan (1977) undertook

a study to determine the relative effect of dialect

ethnicity, social class and quality of written composition

on teachers'subjective evaluations of fourth grade children.

As in most previous studies audio recordings of subjected

speech samples were evaluated by a group of potential

speakers. These samples were elicited by asking the

children spontaneously to tell a story based on a series

of cartoons. In addition, the subjects were video taped

for comparison of visual and vocal cues.

Finally, 75 fourth grade children submitted papers

for evaluation. The four highest and the four lowest

were converted to typed scripts for presentation to the

experimental subjects. The results of their study did

not disconfirm the presence of social stereotyping process

in teachers subjective student evaluations. It did, however,

accentuate the complexity of such processes. Attributions

of socio-economic status were found to have a main effect.

Interactions of socio-economic status, dialect, ethnicity

and quality of written composition were found to influence

teachers' subjective evaluations.

Further, and disquietingly, the study revealed that

the quality of the children's written compositions exerted

the least direct effect on the teachers' judgments.

In line with other studies, Piche et al. conclude

that ethnic stereotypes act in a relative, not absolute

manner. Their first effects are modified over time by

reinforcing or counteracting information such as written


DeMeis and Turner (1978) addressed the effects of

race, dialect and physical attractiveness on teachers'

evaluations of performance. Students were Black and

white and were pre-rated as high, middle or low in

attractiveness and were ranked as either standard or

non-standard English speakers. Sixty-eight white

elementary school teachers listened to responses from

these children and then rated them in terms of personality,

quality of response and current and future academic

potential. Results showed that generally Black and

Black English speaking children and low attractive

students were rated lower. These results provide some

support for attributing these children's academic failures

to their race, dialect or appearance rather than their


Granger, Mathews, Quay and Verner (1977) investigated

teacher evaluations of functionally equivalent speech samples

obtained from twelve middle and lower class (socio-economic)

Black and white third graders. Fifty-six female preschool

and elementary school teachers rated and ranked taped

picture descriptions. Results indicated that middle

socio-economic status children were rated more positively

than the lower status group and that white speakers were

perceived more favorably than Black speakers.

A similar study by Sanford (1978) examined the actual

number of phonological deviations, syntatic deviations,

and reading deviations (Black vs. white) in relation to

teacher evaluations. Sixty-one classroom teachers from

the Midwest listened to tape recordings of three Black

children and three white children reading perfectly.

Subjects were instructed to record all deviations they

considered errors. Teachers recorded a significantly

greater number of deviations for the Black readers.

The subjects recorded significantly more phonological

deviations for the Black readers. The subjects recorded

significantly more syntactical errors for the white readers.

There was no interaction between ratings and the attitude


Purpose of the Study.

The compelling consensus of research centered around

Black Non-standard English is that speakers employing this

speech style are negatively perceived in terms of personality,

physical characteristics, power, and ability. These

devaluations, while stereotypical and inaccurate, are nonethe-

less a potentially limiting consideration for BNS speakers in

the actual practice. Unanswered in these studies, however, is

the question of how listeners are able to make these consensual

ascriptions. It must be remembered that the preponderance of

research in this field involves taped samples of speech with

no demographic data about the speaker. Yet in study after

study, evaluative listeners, ranging from college freshmen to

speech pathologists, have responded in remarkably similar

ways to Black Non-standard English. BNS has been identified

by various studies as being negatively perceived. These

negative perceptions have been noted cross culturally and

have been registered even by those who employ BNS as their

sole or primary speech style. These same studies have

identified standard English General American dialect as the

evaluative opposite of BNS in that it is the most favorably

perceived speech style yet tested. Studies of General

American dialect indicate that, regardless of their own

habitual speech style listeners respond favorably to

speakers employing GA.

The research reviewed for this study suggests that

discrimination made based on the use of BNS are made over

aesthetic and stylistic considerations rather than

comprehensional ones. While research findings do suggest

that the use of BNS does inhibit the user's ability to decode

standard English symbol arrangement and comprehension, no

studies suggest that cross-racial comprehension barriers are

the basis for negative evaluations of BNS. These negative

stereotypical perceptions, therefore, must be based on

stylistic considerations. Simply stated, something about the

way the BNS speaker "sounds" negatively influences the way he

is perceived.

Unfortunately it is unclear what specific aspects of

speech style are responsible for these ascriptions. It is

of immediate importance then to determine the basis for the

speech borne stereotypical ascriptions noted in the

literature. No attempt heretofore has been made to separate

the two elements of a speaker's style which may be

responsible for speech discrimination, (1) grammatical

and (2) phonological differences (accents). Further compli-

cating the situations is the use of "matched guise, or non-salient

prepared script, methodologies in the preponderance of speech

style investigations. Matched guise studies employ only one

speaker who is "fluent" in both of the dialects or styles

under investigation. These "bi-dialectal" speakers record

a prepared script in both modes of speech for evaluation by

listeners. A similar strategy commonly employed in person

perception research involves the use of several dialectally

representative speakers reading content controlled scripts.

The goal of both of these approaches is to control the

salience of the recorded passages and so isolate the para-

linguistic variables for investigation. The pitfall of these

methodologies is their inherent lack of naturalness. It is

possible that this lack of "spontaneity" could have influenced

the results of the studies in which they were employed.

Lee (1970) voices this same criticism of the unnaturalness

of most of the prepared passages employed in person perception

research. He contends that most of these samples are

characteristic of reading style and as such are not related

to spontaneous (oral style) communication in general. In

addition, Lee feels that methodologies which employ repeated

content controlled messages free listeners (due to repetition)

to be more discriminating in their evaluations of speakers

after the initial recitation. Lee contends that most of a

listener's attention is absorbed by simple message decoding,

unless the message is repeated.

If a valid methodology could be developed which provided

a separation between the phonological and grammatical aspects

of oral communication, it might allow the identification of the

specific variables which are associated with the negative

stereotypes engendered by Black Non-standard English. The

ability to identify and distinguish between the major elements

of spoken language would be of great assistance in the

remediation or alteration of the specific variables that

arouse negative perceptions of the person in these cases.

Traditional education in the United States places emphasis on

standard grammar and syntax. Studies of speech style conducted

in secondary schools (reported previously) suggest that even

when using standard English syntax and grammar Black children

can still be negatively evaluated on speech related variables.

Harms (1961) in his conclusions hypothesized the existence of

"micro-scopic" speech cues which act as the basis for

discrimination of status from the voice. It may well be

that the elements of speech (BNS or any style) that arouse

stereotypical responses in the listener operate below the

level of grammar and structure. A methodology sensitive to

the minute levels of speech style could facilitate the

remediation of any undesirable speech characteristics by

isolating them for specific attention.

It was the purpose of this investigation to develop a

valid methodology with the ability to simply discriminate

between the grammatical and phonological channels of spoken

language and to investigate the evaluative consequences of

using BNS (as compared with standard English General American

dialect) via that means.


Based on the implications of previous research, the

following hypotheses were forwarded for testing in this study:

(1) A. Speakers who employ Black Non-standard

English dialect will be less favorably

perceived over three evaluative measures

than individuals employing standard General

American Dialect.

B. Due to the pervasive nature of the stereo-

types associated with the two dialects the

preference for SEGA and BNS will be

consistent across racial and sexual lines.

(2) Evaluations of these two speech styles (as

well as others) are primarily based in the

phonological aspects of speech rather than

the grammatical aspects. Specifically, BNS

speakers will be negatively perceived even

when employing the word choice of General

American Speakers.

Chapter TWO


Experimental Tape.

The experimental stimuli of this study were audio

taped samples of 8 male speakers of two American (U.S.)

English dialects: Black Non-standard (N=4) and General

American (N=4). To control the salience of the content

of these speech samples the speakers employed in this study

were recorded describing a landscape by Van Gogh. These

spontaneous descriptions were 60 seconds in duration. By

spontaneous it is meant that the speakers described a common

stimulus, each employing their own unprompted, idiosyncratic

word choice and order. A major goal of this study was to

separate the grammatical and the phonological aspects of the

two speech styles. In essence, to test the veracity of the

cliche "it's not what you say but how you say it." To achieve

this end, once the spontaneous descriptions were gathered, they

were reduced to script form complete with mispronunciations

and vocalized non-fluencies. These scripts were then returned

to the two groups of speakers. Each speaker then recorded the

script of a randomly assigned dialectal counterpart.

The exchange and recording of scripts by dialectal

counterparts is designed to separate the pnonological and

grammatical aspects of the speakers' speech styles, and in

this way, allow the separate evaluation of their impact on

person perception. The initial tape, then, consisted of

16, 60 second speech samples collected from 8 speakers in

each of two conditions: spontaneous description and script

reading. The complete scripts are listed in appendix 1.

To control ordering effects, the experimental tape was

constructed by randomly ordering two (15-20 second) segments

of each speaker's speech in each of the two speaking styles.

In this way each speaker was evaluated 4 different times,

twice from segments of spontaneous description and twice from

segments of script reading. This procedure yielded an

experimental tape that consisted of 32 randomly ordered

segments of speech.

Research by Harms (1961) has determined that listeners

form speech based evaluations of speakers in the first 10-15

seconds they are exposed to their voices. As a result of

these findings the brief duration of the speech segments used

in this study is not considered to pose a threat to validity

or a limitation for the overall purposes of this research.

The brief duration of the segments also prevented rater

fatigue from confounding results. The relatively large number

of samples (32) rated was designed to prevent raters from

focusing (negatively or positively) on one particular speaker

and in that way skewing the data.


The speakers employed in this study were selected by

a three step process. Potential speakers were first selected

by the way they "sounded" to the untrained ear of the

experimenter. Secondly, in an attempt to control all

variables besides the ones in experimental consideration,

only speakers with similar backgrounds were employed. All

speakers were males between the ages of 20 and 40.

Further, all speakers were currently enrolled in college or

had already completed a college degree. General American

speakers were also required to have originated in and spent

the majority of their lives in the midwestern United States.

Finally, to test the "untrained ear" of the experimenter

and determine positively the dialectal representativeness of

the potential speech samples the tape of the 32 randomly

ordered speech samples was independently judged by 3 dialect

experts. In sum, the speakers can be considered valid

representatives of their dialects.

Rating Scales.

The aforementioned research generally concluded that

accurate specific determinations of personality or physical

characteristics cannot be made from the voice. However, very

reliable and valid judgments can be made on a general

evaluative dimension (Osgood, Suci and Tannenbaum 1957).

The perceptions of the speakers in this study were made via

three highly factor loaded bi-polar adjective pairs which

tapped the evaluative dimension (good-bad, wise-foolish,

rich-poor). The individual scores from these scales were

combined to compute a mean evaluative factor score. The

evaluative dimension was considered highly relevant for this

research since it deals with the factors most potent in real

world speech judgments. The rating instrument consisted of

3 sheets (one for each of the above adjective pairs) on

which each rater rated all 32 segments on one six point bi-

polar adjective scale. The scales were constructed with the

"positive" scores on the left and the "negative" scores on

the right. Each scale position was given a value from one

to six, reading from left to right. As a result low mean

scores indicated positive ratings, while high mean scores

indicated negative ratings. Each rater rated the speakers

on only one of the three scales. The three scales were

randomly distributed to the raters. The sex, race, and age

of the rater were also collected on each sheet.


Raters in this study were 48 graduate business students

(24 male, 24 female) enrolled in the MBA program of the

Business school at the University of Central Florida, during

the spring quarter of 1981. Graduate business students were

specifically used to give some actual practice validity to any

experimental results. It was felt that as these individuals

were (or soon would be) in positions of responsibility in the

realm of business (possibly in hiring and personnel functions)

their evaluations would graphically illustrate the actual

practice consequences of employing the two speech styles tested.

All raters were white. A statistically acceptable number of

Black raters were not present in the rater population; there-

fore, it was not possible to use Blacks as raters.

Administration of Rating Scales.

The design of this study permitted all experimental data

to be collected in one session. This is viewed as an asset

as it controlled any influence that different class settings

and administration times may have had on the results. The

experimental raters were told that they would be participating

in a study judging personality from voice. No information

about the dialectal nature of the study was provided.

Further, no demographic information about the speakers was


On the experimental tape the speakers were identified

only by number (1-32), a 15 second rating period of blank

tape was provided after each speech segment. The three

scales employed to tap the evaluative dimension were

randomly distributed to the raters. Each rater received only

one scale over which he or she evaluated all speech segments.

Once the experimental tape was started, it ran continuously

until its conclusion. The tape itself was played on the

same Wollensak Cassette Recorder Player that was used to

compile the 32 segment tape in order to minimize static.

Chapter THREE


A 2 x 2 x 2 factorial analysis of variance (Style x

Dialect x Rater's sex, Bruning and Kintz, 1968) was computed

for the evaluative ratings obtained by the procedure

described above. Tables 1 and 2 indicate the results of

the Analysis of Variance. These results indicate that the

speaking style and the dialect employed affect an audience's

evaluations of a speaker. Figure 1 graphically displays

these same results.

The Duncan Multi-range Test was used to make multiple

comparisons of the mean scores. For an N of 96, mean scores

of 4.0 script style and 3.49 spontaneous style were

significantly different (P = .05). Mean ratings of the

GA and BNS dialects also differed significantly (X = 3.27,

GA; X = 4.21, BNS; p = .05). No difference was noted between

means obtained from male and female raters.

Table 1

Results of Factorial Analysis of Variance





Style x Dialect

Style x Sex

Dialect x Sex

Style x Dialect x Sex






















Table 2

Mean Scores for Each Dialect Style Group








2.4 4.1*

4.5 3.9

* indicates p = .0001








Figure 1

Graph of Mean Scores for Each Dialect Style Group



Chapter FOUR


The results of this research suggest that speakers

who employ Black Non-standard dialect as their primary speech

style are negatively evaluated because of the grammatical and

phonological aspects of that style. These findings refute

the author's second hypothesis, which predicted that the

phonological aspects of BNS are primarily responsible for the

negative perceptions of that dialect.

In line with the predictions of hypothesis two, BNS

speakers were negatively perceived both, when speaking

spontaneously and also when speaking with the grammar of

the GA dialect. The interaction effect noted between the

speaking condition and speakers' dialect (graphically dis-

played in Figure 1) suggests that the negative evaluations

of BNS dialect stem from both the phonological and

grammatical aspects of that speech style. Mean scores for

BNS speakers were consistently negative in both speaking

styles (Table 2) while positive evaluations of GA speakers

decreased dramatically when those speakers employed the

grammar of BNS dialect. It is possible, of course, that

some degree of this difference in evaluation can be attributed

to the differences in spontaneous speech and script reading.

As a result, the differences in rater evaluation of GA

speakers could potentially be viewed as support for Lee's

(1970) criticism of script-based dialect research. It must

be remembered, however, that the BNS speakers were negatively

evaluated across conditions. The author observed that the

taped segments of the GA speakers employing the grammatical

elements of BNS dialect sparked derisive snickers and

laughter during the collection of data. This suggests that

those grammatical elements more than the different speaking

styles were responsible for the significant difference between


Hypothesis 1-A predicted that the BNS speakers would be

negatively evaluated as compared to GA speakers. Hypothesis

1-B predicted no difference between the rating of the male

and female raters when rating the BNS speakers. Both

components of this hypothesis were confirmed (Table one).

These results support the findings of prior investigations

of BNS dialect. The findings of this study suggest clearly

that even in situations where Black Non-standard speakers

have similar backgrounds and qualifications to General

American speakers, and where the speaking situations and topics

are identical, BNS speakers will be at an evaluative

disadvantage due to the negative stereotype evoked by their

speech style. Even greater social significance can be

attached to these findings when it is recalled that the data

responsible for this conclusion were collected from graduate

students of business, individuals who currently, or in the

near future will occupy positions of responsibility and

leadership in the business community where this study was


The results of this study suggest that dialect is a

major dimension that raters rely on for their opinions of

other individuals. Specifically, that to whatever extent

a dialect can evoke a stereotypic response, the Black Non-

standard speaker will be at a disadvantage. It is not the

intention of this study to predict the consequences of that

disadvantage, but it is intuitive that in the competitive

business situations even small differences between individuals

can be significant.

The findings of this study lend renewed support to the

conclusion that Black Non-standard dialect is a negatively

perceived speech style. Further, it confirms that the

negative perceptions of this speaking style are consistent

between male and female raters. Future research should

determine the pervasiveness of this effect across other

variables (e.g. status and race) while underscoring the

pragmatic desirability of altering this negatively perceived

style (in essence to become bi-dialectal).

This study cannot offer a clear identification of the

specific elements of grammar or phonology in each of the two

aspects of BNS dialect which are responsible for negative

evaluations. Future research should attempt to further

"break down" these two aspects of dialect to identify specific

variables and facilitate their remediation. It may well

be possible to alter or eliminate the negatively perceived

elements of Black Non-standard dialect without adulterating

or diluting it as the carrier of culture and source of ethnic

identification its proponents suggest.

The most important finding of this study indicates

that achieving that end will require attention to both the

grammatical and phonological aspects of speech. Clearly a

system of English instruction which focuses solely on one or

the other of these two dimensions will be less than

successful in eliminating the negative stereotypes associated

with BNS dialect.


Scripts of Speakers 1 Through 8

Speaker 1 General American English

I'm looking at a picture by Van Gogh. The description

of this picture is....I think it's an oil. It looks like

a field, a wheat field, there's a road going through the

wheat field with some clouds in the distance and some, a

lot of black maybe crows. There also looks to be some like

green "foilage" next to the field and it looks like wheat

and it looks like there's a wind blowing across the field,

uhm, other than that I can' looks like,'s

not very definite and its not very specific it's just an

oil and it's's pretty abstract actually. To give

you more of an idea...the birds there's quite a bit of them

flying....flying to the east, and they're all heading in

that direction.

Speaker 2 General American English

I'm looking at a picture that has many different colors

in it and various shades of some of the same colors. It

appears to be a wheat field. Within the wheat fie.d are

various yellows and shades of green and red, there is a

blue sky overhead. There seems to be at least two or

three white clouds. There are a number of birds pictured

in the scene flying at various levels. The wheat field

takes up approximately two thirds of the picture and the

sky the remaining portion. The predominant colors in the

picture are yellow and blue. It's a fairly interesting

picture I suppose, if one were to si...sit and....dwell

on it for a long length of time one might be able to place

various meanings in terms of what the author might....ah

have been intending.

Speaker 3 General American English

My interpretation of this picture looks like

a wheat field with a winding road down the middle of it

with two roads at each end. Crows are flying overhead....

the ah sky looks like it's about to rain....a few clouds in

the sky dark blue. It looks like the ah...wind could be

blowin the wheat around, very tranquil looking....looks

like about twenty birds altogether but who's counting.

Speaker 4 General American English

I'm looking at a painting by Van Gogh. It's one of the

last paintings that he did, it's of a cornfield with crows

flying over it. It's done in an oil technique kind of a

"pasteche" that has dimension, it has bright colors which

are typical of the artist, very bright colors which are

typical of the artist. There is a road leading into the

cornfield. This was one of the final paintings that he

did before committing suicide and if I remember correctly

he blew his brains out in the corn field he is painting here.

The dominant colors are blue, yellow, ah.. sort of a reddish

brown and green.

Speaker 5 Black Non-standard English

Dis picture I'm "describin" is blue, yellow, green.

Da road design is green with brown "stripin" da artist he

use something like an arch brush, oil brush base. He have

an arrangement of birds in the blue like shade "symbolizin"

da sky, da yellow is symbolizin a field of some sort, he

have darker shades or it may be symbolizin a storm or a

cloud or something of this nature with a whirl of white in

da mixture of blue may be symbolizin sunlight. Da picture

is very colorful and it's by Van Ghose I'm told. Some

parts look like water but it's hard to tell because of the

minglin of the colors.

Speaker 6 Black Non-standard English

This is a picture by Van Gogh. Theres very lotta

description in this picture. I'm gonn start with the colors

that's in this picture. There's a very dark blue sky in

the picture where you can see about 20 to 25 birds which

is flying through the picture. On each side of the picture

there is ah....real yellow grass which looks more like

wheat and in between the two pictures there is a dark red

clay road which look like it passes through the gre....

the yellow wheat that's on each side of the road. Out in

the field looks like there hasn't been a rain in a while

everything looks dr...dry. The birds look as if they were

flying east in this picture, flying towards the storm or

something else that's on the picture.

Speaker 7 Black Non-standard English

This picture it's in this class I got uhh it's something

bout ahh bout Van Gogh right, and uhh this picture's called

ahh Crows or whatever, and it's like got a bunch of like

black spots but I don't really be into it, and uhh we just

be sitting around talking and everybody be half asleep and

ahh an it too much to it ahh and that's about it.

Speaker 8 Black Non-standard English

I got a, gotta painting here I'm looking at. It's

got a lotta different strokes of the brushes and stuff,

it's got a lotta different colors, sky blue. It's gotta

lot of black marks supposed to be birds, look like they

flyin over....don't know if it's land or what. Just a

bunch a, guess it's supposed to be land cause it's sorta

brownish. Ya got some birds flying high, some flying low,

ya got a few white spots look like ma....maybe they could

be clouds, well it could be running through a running river,

flyin through a valley or something. Land on both sides

birds flyin away uhm looks pret...looks pretty neat. Sorta

a abstract like painting. You probably see different things

in it if you really tried.


Your sex_ Your race Your age

1 2 3 4 5 6






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John Albert Craft
Born Jacksonville, Florida, December 26, 1953.
Resident of Longwood, Florida, 32750


BA, General Communication, 3/75, Florida Technological
University, Orlando, Florida

MA, General Communication, 8/77, Florida Technological
University, Orlando, Florida

PhD, Speech, 12/81, University of Florida
Gainesville, Florida


Instructor of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)
Seminole Community College, Sanford, Florida

Adjunct Instructor of Speech, University of Central Florida,
Orlando, Florida, and Valencia Community College, Orlando, Florida.

I certify that I have read this study and that in
my opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

Norman Markel, Chairman
Professor of Speech

I certify that I have read this study and that in
my opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

Anthony Clark
Associate Professor of

I certify that I have read this study and that in
my opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

Donald Williams
Professor of Speech

I certify that I have read this study and that
in my opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of
scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope
and quality, as a dissertation for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy.

Jayne C. Harder
Professor of Linguistics

I certify that I have read this study and that
in my opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of
scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope
and quality, as a dissertation for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy.

Marilyn Holly
Associate Professor of

This dissertation was submitted to the Graduate Faculty
of the Department of Speech in the College of Liberal
Arts.and Sciences and the Graduate Council, and was
accepted as partial fulfillment of the requirements for
the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

Dean for Graduate Studies
December, 1981 and Research

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