Language is a primary medium through which social attitudes are formed, transmitted, and experienced. As such, language is a nexus for social, economic, and political inequality. On the one hand, speakers may perpetuate linguistic biases against others through their use of language. On the other hand, speakers themselves may be the targets of linguistic discrimination based on their own language use. Both linguistic bias and linguistic discrimination sustain racism, sexism, ablism, and myriad other forms of injustice. In this repository we focus on linguistic discrimination, which directly impacts access to resources for individuals and communities. In particular, we summarize research that demonstrates how speakers of ‘African American English’ in the United States face systemic barriers to societal resources.

Linguistic biases and linguistic discrimination are two sides of the same coin. Linguistic biases are revealed through systematic variations in word choice that reflect misconceptions and prejudices associated with particular groups or individuals.¹ One example is the disproportionate use of the terms “criminals” or “thugs” by mass media to describe Black males.² In contrast to linguistic bias, in which speakers use language to discriminate against others, linguistic discrimination is the unfair treatment of individuals or groups due to their use of a particular language variety. Linguistic features—including accent, vocabulary, syntax, and even modality—can identify a speaker as a member of a specific minoritized community.³ Listeners can use such linguistic information to discriminate on the basis of race, gender, disability, and other identities.

Crucially, language science research can be used as an instrument for revealing the different manifestations of linguistic discrimination. This repository showcases some excellent examples of research with exactly this goal in mind. We hope that the articles and summaries we provide encourage further interdisciplinary research on the relations among language, discrimination, and inequality. While many types of linguistic discrimination exist, we have chosen to limit this repository to research investigating race-based linguistic discrimination. While far from comprehensive, the repository provides an overview of some of the forms of linguistic discrimination speakers of African American English may face in their everyday lives.

By hovering over or clicking on the Repository tab above, you can access a selection of research articles investigating linguistic discrimination in several areas of everyday life: Education, Employment, Healthcare, Housing, and the Justice System. By clicking on one of these folders, you will find summaries of illustrative research articles for that particular topic. In addition, you will find references and links to the summarized articles, as well as links to more research articles in this area. In the Linguistics folder, you will also find a summary and link to an article with a call to make the field of linguistics more racially equitable. In the Communication Services folder, you will find relevant resources related to speech-language sciences, such as SMART in Communication Sciences and Disorders, which maintains a public repository of sources related to communication needs in culturally and linguistically diverse populations and settings.

We encourage you to explore the summaries and referenced articles in each folder. We hope this repository will serve as a useful tool for researchers in a broad range of fields, and further demonstrate how linguistics and language science research can contribute to a more socially just and equitable future.


  1. Beukeboom, C. J., & Burgers, C. (2017). Linguistic bias. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication. https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228613.013.439
  2. Smiley, C., & Fakunle, D. (2016). From “brute” to “thug:” the demonization and criminalization of unarmed Black male victims in America. Journal Of Human Behavior In The Social Environment, 26(3-4), 350–366. https://doi.org/10.1080/10911359.2015.1129256
  3. Alim, H. S., Rickford, J. R., & Ball, A. F. (2016). Raciolinguistics: How language shapes our ideas about race. Oxford University Press.