Date of Award

Spring 5-1-2015

Document Type

Honors Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


English, Linguistics, and Communication

First Advisor

Parker, Judith

Second Advisor

Mathur, Maya

Major or Concentration



African American Vernacular English has a distinct set of grammatical and phonological features that are given social meaning by listeners, often associating its speakers with ideas about the African American community at large. Studies have shown that social ideologies surrounding a dialect may strongly influence perceptions of the speaker. In turn, the very ways the speaker is understood may have tangible consequences. The present study analyzes data collected from an online survey to determine the effects of language ideologies and dialect perception on attribution of responsibility to victims of sexual violence. The text focuses specifically on how perceptions of a victim's dialect can affect the extent to which they are held responsible by study participants. Survey takers (n=32) were asked to answer five questions after reading a fictional story told in first person, either in Standard American English or African American Vernacular English. Results show that female participants overall were more likely to attribute responsibility to the narrator than to the speaker of the standard dialect. Additionally, those who read the passage in standard English indicated more responsibility of the victim.

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Linguistics Commons