People's perceptions of Lumbee Vernacular English

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Hammonds, Renee. “People's perceptions of Lumbee Vernacular English.” Thesis. Durham, NC: North Carolina Central U, 2000. 43 pages


Hammonds conducted a study, in conjunction with the North Carolina Language and Life Project at North Carolina State University, “. . . to determine if there is subjective validity to the notion of Lumbee Vernacular English and whether speakers who listen to other speakers can reliably identify the latter group as Lumbee” (p. 3). She chose three groups of twenty or more individuals (two groups of Robeson County residents and one group of Raleigh residents) and asked them to listen to twelve Robeson County speech samples (four African American, four White, and four Lumbee). For each sample, listeners would circle on a form their best guess as to whether the speaker was African American, White, or Lumbee. Results of data from the 83 participants were analyzed using the chi-square test of statistical significance. The Raleigh listeners (Group III) identified White and African American speakers with a fairly high level of accuracy but identified Lumbee speakers only at the level of random chance, usually misidentifying them as White. Group I participants (all Lumbee adolescents aged 11-16) identified Lumbee speakers with 77% accuracy, Whites with 70% accuracy, and African Americans with 88% accuracy. When Lumbee speakers were misidentified, they were usually judged to be White. Group II, comprised of older Robeson County residents (also all Lumbee), identified Lumbee speakers with 90% accuracy, Whites with 70% accuracy, and African Americans with 95% accuracy. Like the other two groups, when they misidentified Lumbee speakers, they judged them to be White. The chi-square analysis showed that Raleigh residents differ significantly in their ability to identify Lumbee Vernacular English speakers, but not White or African American speakers. Hammonds concluded that “. . . there is validity to the idea of Lumbee English” (p. 29) and that ethnic identity as Lumbee based on speech is locally constructed, unlike White and African American identity based on speech. Suggestions for further investigation include larger sample sizes of participants as well as speech samples. Appendices include the consent forms and the speaker identification form.

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