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Keywords:

  • Language crossing;
  • African American Vernacular English;
  • authenticity;
  • language ideology;
  • interethnic communication

Recent work on language crossing in the U.S. has examined the temporary appropriation of African American Vernacular English by white youth in an effort to participate in the current popularity and prestige of hip–hop culture, or in order to highlight racial boundaries. While such verbal behavior probably encompasses most white use of AAVE, it is not the only way in which whites (or other non–blacks) can use the variety. This paper presents a case study of the language of a 23 year old white female who makes consistent use of many distinctive linguistic features associated with AAVE. I argue that the interaction of ideologies of race, class, localness and language allow her to be considered an ingroup member despite her biographical race. This suggests that there is a tension between academic linguistic theory and actual speaker practice in assigning authenticity to individuals, and I conclude that language ideologies and other forms of qualitative evidence should be taken into account by sociolinguists looking at the link between language and race.