Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Masters of Social Work


School for Social Work


Kathy Ryan


This study was undertaken to explore experiences of bidialectism in college-educated African Americans. The major questions in this study attempted to answer the following: 1) How do college-educated African Americans perceive and negotiate differences between Black and Standard English? 2) Does negotiating two language systems impact their sense of cultural identity? If so, in what ways? and, 3) Is there a conflict involved in negotiating two language systems? If so, what is the nature of the conflict?

Eight interviews were conducted with graduate students who were both Black and Standard English speakers. Subjects ranged in age from 22 to 50. Questions were asked to gain insight into subjects’ views about these two language systems. Questions were also asked to determine whether subjects experienced their bidialectism as a means of achieving greater linguistic resources for coping in society, or as a source of ambiguity and confusion.

Findings show that subjects determine which language system they will use according to their perceptions of the environment. Black English was considered a valuable resource for showing cultural solidarity in informal communication within the African American community. Standard English was considered a valuable resource for formal communication within the larger society. Other significant issues reveal that subjects expressed both feelings of conflict and resolution about negotiating two language systems.


© 1996 Ina N. Owens




iii, 58 pages Includes bibliographical references and appendices (pages 58-66)