Speaking ebonics in a professional context: The role of ethos/source credibility and perceived sociability of the speaker

Kay Payne, Joe Downing, John Christopher Fleming

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle

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Within a theoretical context of speech accomodation theory, this study follows Lambert et al.'s (1960) "matched-guise" technique. Seventy-two African-American students at a mid-south university listened to and evaluated a tape-recorded excerpt of a speech given by Jesse Jackson at the 1996 Democratic National Convention. The first version of the speech was translated into Ebonics. After students listened to the first four-minute speech in Ebonics, students then proceeded to answer a questionnaire concerning the ethos/source credibility and perceived sociability of the speaker. Next, students listened to the same audiotaped speech (given by the same speaker), except the text of the speech was translated (and subsequently delivered) in Standard English. The students then rated this second speaker on those same ethos/source credibility and sociability scales. The speaker who used Standard English was viewed as more credible (i.e., more competent and having a strong character) and sociable than the Ebonics speaker. Both of these scores were significant at the p≤.05 level. Future research replicating these results is urged across other African-American samples.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages17
Specialist publicationJournal of Technical Writing and Communication
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2000


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • Education

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