Author Date


Degree Name



Linguistics and English Language



Defense Date


Publication Date


First Faculty Advisor

William Egginton

First Faculty Reader

Wendy Smemoe

Honors Coordinator

Cynthia Hallen


sociolinguistics, AAE, variation, cultural identity, hiring practices


This thesis addresses the question of whether different dialects can change the probability of speakers being perceived as employable. It is one of the few that takes this question away from college campuses and directly to Human Resources Managers in the workforce. Using the Matched Guise Technique, recordings of Standard American English (SAE) and African American English (AAE) were presented to forty-two HR Managers from regions across the United States. Using a series of Likert scales, the HR Managers rated the recordings on eight characteristics of employability: four focused on professional skills and four focused on human-relation skills. The study examined different perceptions of the dialects held by the HR managers across regions, across the gender of the speakers, across levels of interaction the applicant is expected to have with the public, and across types of characteristics in the voice samples. Analysis based on paired t-tests showed that, with few exceptions, SAE speakers were rated significantly higher than AAE speakers. This study adds to existing research by analyzing AAE and SAE generally and with these four variables, reaching participants in the workforce, and touching multiple regions of the United States simultaneously.