This article examines the attitudes of a group of middle-class African Americans toward varieties that are available to them for helping to project the attitudes, stances, and affiliations that they perceive as effective in negotiating social and professional environments where vastly distinct linguistic norms may prevail. The research uses subjective reaction tests, interviews, and an online survey to ask questions about the significance of “sounding black” in judgments the participants make about standardness, social class, and appropriateness of speech styles for various environments. The research also examines linguistic features that contribute to the social judgments. Results show a correlation between the perception of African American identity and judgments that occur in other areas; the consultants value AAVE as their heritage language, but see standard African American English as the one variety that can meet the demands of all environments.

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