African American Vernacular English: affirming spaces for linguistic identity within the composition classroom

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This dissertation, "African American Vernacular English: Affirming Spaces for Linguistic Identity within the Composition Classroom," presents the findings of an IRB-approved case study on African American female identity within the first-year composition classroom. The goals of my research are to interrogate the privilege awarded to Standard American English, advocate equality among all cultural dialects, and affirm pedagogical spaces for students' linguistic identities. My research addresses the links between African American females' language and identity. The first portion of the case study involves the students' academic identities. Based on the results of the study, I argue that in order to succeed within academia, African American female students must overcome a silencing of the African American voice as well as their personal insecurities involving language. The second portion of the study involves the students' societal identities. I argue that incorporating new waves of technology that reflect students' interests provides students an outlet to explore facets of their identity that fall outside the scope of academic discourse. Within my research, I demonstrate concrete ways to apply the Conference on College Composition and Communication's position statement Student's Right to Their Own Language. I examine the gaps that exist between certain professional organizations' policy statements and the actual pedagogical practices of the members of these professional organizations. In so doing, I seek to challenge other English professionals to uphold the position statements of our professional organizations. The foundational argument of this dissertation is that language and identity are tied inextricably together; therefore, any professional policies or pedagogical practices that seek to negate students' cultural languages should be reexamined.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Rhetoric, African American studies, Pedagogy