Date of Original Version

Spring 2016



Abstract or Description

Most high school teachers and students agree that Standard American English (SAE), or "formal" English, is the expected language of the classroom (Godley, Carpenter, & Werner, 2007); however, many students do not use exclusively SAE while engaged in class discussions. In this study, I examine when and how African American high school students in Pittsburgh use African American English (AAE) during focused, on task discussions in the classroom. I show that a teacher’s role in a conversation affects how students use language, and that as teachers involve themselves more in a conversation or position themselves as an authority relative to their students, their students use less AAE. I also show that students’ stances relative to various aspects of the classroom affect what varieties of language they use, and that students may be using features of AAE as a resource to communicate more than just the answer to a question.


Advisor: Barbara Johnstone

Department of English

Embargo Date