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Title page for ETD etd-04022007-233823

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Williams, Cynthia Hansberry
Author's Email Address cynthia.h.williams@vanderbilt.edu
URN etd-04022007-233823
Title The "Sound" of Blackness: African American Language, Social and Cultural Identities, and Academic Success in a Middle School Language Arts Classroom
Degree PhD
Department Interdisciplinary Studies: Language and Literacy
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Professor David Bloome Committee Co-Chair
Professor Lucius Outlaw, Jr. Committee Co-Chair
Professor Dennis Dickerson Committee Member
Professor Kevin Leander Committee Member
Professor Sheila Smith McKoy Committee Member
  • English education
  • social and cultural identity
  • ethnographic
  • middle school adolescent identity
  • African American Language
Date of Defense 2007-03-20
Availability unrestricted
This dissertation examined the use and variations of African American Language by middle school students. It focused on the relationships of African American Language to the social and cultural identities and academic achievements of students in educational settings. A second focus examined the educational complexities surrounding the uses of African American Language use by students in traditional classroom environments.

Over a seven-month period, data were collected on interactions involving the use of African American Language in an eighth grade language arts classroom. Key classroom events and student interviews were examined utilizing the cultural analysis of discourse, thematic, and microethnographic analysis. Also examined were the cultural models for the use and meaning of African American Language and for cultural identity held by five African American Language student speakers. The study also examined the central role of prosody in signaling particular social and cultural identities and explored the significance of students adopting such identities across varying spaces in and outside of the classroom as a means to navigate social existences in a predominantly African American school community.

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