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Professor John R. Rickford is a leading expert on linguistics, with a focus on Ebonics, Creole, and Guyanese language studies. His studies often focus on linguistics as the field applies to urban education, social class, and ethnic identity. Well known in his field, Rickford is the J.E. Wallace Sterling Professor of Humanities and Professor of Linguistics, as well as the President of the Society for Caribbean Linguistics.

Professor Rickford has published numerous books, including "Spoken Soul: The Story of Black English," the winner of an American Book Award in 2000. He has published articles widely within his field, and has been interviewed by a huge range of media sources including ABC, CBS, News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and US News and World Report. His scholarly opinions and research in the areas of Ebonics and education can be found in publications across the globe over the last 25 years.

Professor Rickford arrived at Stanford in 1980, following his undergraduate years at UC Santa Cruz, and his Ph.D. program at the University of Pennsylvania. Since his arrival, Professor Rickford has won several awards including the Dean's Award for distinguished teaching, and the Bing Fellowship for excellence in teaching. He also won the Distinguished Alumni award at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Professor Rickford has also been the recipient of numerous grants and fellowships, including multiple grants from the National Science Foundation.

Professor Rickford is on the editorial board for over ten Linguistics and Language journals, while also being a member of numerous professional societies. He is the co-founder and chair of the Bay Area Sociolinguistics Association, and an Executive Committee Member of the Linguistic Society of America.

Professor Rickford teaches numerous courses at Stanford, including “Vernacular English and Reading,” “Sociolinguistics of Language Contact,” and “Sociolinguistic Theory and Analysis.”

Key works

An A nnotated Bibliography on African American English and Other Vernaculars in Education. (With Angela E. Rickford and Julie Sweetland). Forthcoming

Language in the USA: Perspectives for the New Millennium, ed. (With Edward Finegan). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004

Style and Sociolinguistic Variation. With Penelope Eckert. Cambridge University Press, 2002

Spoken Soul: The Story of Black English. (With Russell J. Rickford) John Wiley Press, 2000 [Winner of a 2000 American Book Award]

Creole Genesis, Attitudes and Discourse: Studies Celebrating Charlene Sato. With Suzanne Romaine. John Benjamin’s Press, 1999

African American Vernacular English: Features and Use, Evolution, and Educational Implications. Oxford: Blackwell, 1999

African American English, ed. by Salikoko S. Mufwene, John R. Rickford, Guy Bailey and John Baugh. London: Routledge, 1998

Dimensions of a Creole Continuum. Stanford University Press, 1987

Prof. Rickford in the News

January 4, 2016
John Rickford, professor of linguistics, discusses how "African American English" is inseparable...
August 23, 2010
Stanford Professors and Ebonics experts John Rickford and H. Samy Alim share their views on new DEA...
June 14, 2009
NPR, June 14, 2009
Stanford Physics Professor who Overcame Racism is Dead San Jose Mercury News, May 5, 2001
The N Word: Does Anyone Have the Right to Say it? Chicago Tribune, June 11, 2006
Good Teaching - What is it? LA Times, January 10, 1993
Stanford University: Building a Critical Mass of Black Faculty Journal of Blacks in Higher...
Black History Month includes Film Fest Pittsburgh Post Gazette, January 30, 2003

Audio and Video

National Public Radio, December 28, 1996


  • Linguistics and Language
  • Ebonics
  • Pidgin Creole Studies
  • Vernacular Englishes
  • African American Vernacular English
  • Sociolinguistics
  • Urban Education
  • Social Class
  • Ethnic Identity
  • Guyana
  • African American Culture and Literature
  • History of the English Language

Contact information


B.A., University of California Santa Cruz, 1971
M.A., University of Pennsylvania, 1973
Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, 1979