Article  |   July 2009
Phonological Milestones for African American English-Speaking Children Learning Mainstream American English as a Second Dialect
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Barbara Z. Pearson
    University of Massachusetts, Amherst
  • Shelley L. Velleman
    University of Massachusetts, Amherst
  • Timothy J. Bryant
    University of New Hampshire, Durham
  • Tiffany Charko
    Agawam Public Schools, Agawam, MA
  • Contact author: Barbara Zurer Pearson, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Departments of Linguistics and Communication Disorders, South College 226, Amherst, MA 01003. E-mail: bpearson@research.umass.edu.
Article Information
Development / Special Populations / Cultural & Linguistic Diversity
Article   |   July 2009
Phonological Milestones for African American English-Speaking Children Learning Mainstream American English as a Second Dialect
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, July 2009, Vol. 40, 229-244. doi:10.1044/0161-1461(2008/08-0064)
History: Received June 9, 2008 , Revised August 19, 2008 , Accepted September 16, 2008
 
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, July 2009, Vol. 40, 229-244. doi:10.1044/0161-1461(2008/08-0064)
History: Received June 9, 2008; Revised August 19, 2008; Accepted September 16, 2008
Web of Science® Times Cited: 18

Purpose: This study provides milestones for phonological development in African American English (AAE) speakers who are learning Mainstream American English (MAE) as a second dialect.

Method: The Dialect Sensitive Language Test (DSLT; H. Seymour, T. Roeper, & J. G. de Villiers, 2000) was administered to a nationwide sample of typically developing children ages 4 through 12: 537 speakers of AAE as a first dialect and 317 speakers of MAE as a first dialect. DSLT items tested all consonant segments and many clusters of MAE in initial and final position. The age at which each dialect group reached 90% criterion for each segment in each position was compared.

Results: Several phonetic elements that are contrastive between the dialects (i.e., differentiate the dialects) in word-final position were found to be similar in the 2 groups in word-initial position. Only /ð/ was contrastive in both positions. We confirm the later acquisition of certain phonological segments and structures by AAE speakers compared to MAE speakers and report their earlier mastery of other elements of MAE phonology.

Conclusion: Both segmental and phonotactic development show different trajectories for AAE and MAE. Thus, initial diagnosis of impairment for AAE children should focus only on mastery of noncontrastive segments and structures that share a similar developmental profile for the 2 dialect groups.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
This work was funded in part by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders under Contract N01 DC8-2104 to Harry Seymour, Principal Investigator at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, with Thomas Roeper and Jill de Villiers at UMass and Smith College as co-investigators and Barbara Pearson as Project Manager. It was accomplished in conjunction with The Psychological Corporation of Harcourt Assessments, Inc., now Pearson Education, Inc. of San Antonio, TX, Lois Ciolli, Senior Research Director. Data and selected extracts of the phonology subtest from the DELV/DSLT were used by permission of the publisher. (“Diagnostic Evaluation of Language Variation” and “DELV,” copyright © 2003, are trademarks of Pearson Education Inc. or its affiliates.) Funding was also provided by National Science Foundation Grant BCS-0318135 to Shelley Velleman, Principal Investigator at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
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