Date of Defense


Date of Graduation




First Advisor

Lisa Minnick

Second Advisor

Adrienne Redding


The language used in most classrooms throughout the United States is standard American English (SAE). Although this language is difficult to define, it is often perceived as the correct or proper usage of the English language. Students grow up learning that there is one correct way to speak and write, and consequently, they learn that any variation from this standard must be incorrect or improper. Student speakers of stigmatized variations of English face academic, social, and personal consequences such as poor academic performance, isolation from peers, and assimilation. The ideology that promotes SAE as correct also ignores the connection between language and identity and the value of language variation. Variations of the English language have their own cultural and communal ties, and there is value in the speakers’ ability to communicate effectively using the language. This paper observes the effects of SAE in schools, the value of language variation, and the connection between language and identity through existing research and literature. To illustrate how the perception of language appears in classroom practice, this paper discusses interviews with three English teachers who explained their classroom environment, their beliefs surrounding SAE and language varieties, and their teaching philosophies for language variation. This paper concludes by proposing a process for teaching language variation so students learn to effectively communicate in the SAE expectations of today’s society while placing equal value on all variations of English.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Open Access