Article  |   April 2012
Dialect-Neutral Indices of Narrative Cohesion and Evaluation
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Frances A. Burns
    University of Massachusetts, Amherst
  • Peter A. de Villiers
    Smith College, Northampton, MA
  • Barbara Z. Pearson
    University of Massachusetts, Amherst
  • Tempii B. Champion
    Long Island University, Brooklyn, NY
  • Correspondence to Frances A. Burns: fburns@comdis.umass.edu
  • Editor: Marilyn Nippold
    Editor: Marilyn Nippold×
  • Associate Editor: Amy Weiss
    Associate Editor: Amy Weiss×
Special Populations / Cultural & Linguistic Diversity
Article   |   April 2012
Dialect-Neutral Indices of Narrative Cohesion and Evaluation
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools April 2012, Vol.43, 132-152. doi:10.1044/0161-1461(2011/10-0101)
History: Accepted 02 Aug 2011 , Received 17 Nov 2010 , Revised 24 Jan 2011
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools April 2012, Vol.43, 132-152. doi:10.1044/0161-1461(2011/10-0101)
History: Accepted 02 Aug 2011 , Received 17 Nov 2010 , Revised 24 Jan 2011

Purpose: This study compared the development of essential elements of narrative skill in children from African American English (AAE)- and general American English (GAE)-speaking communities using an innovative elicitation and evaluation protocol consisting of four key indices of narrative language: (a) reference contrasting, (b) temporal expressions, (c) mental state descriptions, and (d) understanding of behavior based on false belief.

Method: Participants were 291 AAE speakers and 238 GAE speakers, 4 to 9 years of age. Approximately one-third of both dialect groups were identified as having language impairments. Children generated 2 stories based on short picture sequences. Their stories were coded for the 4 key indices of narrative language. Analyses of variance were performed with subsets of the measures and a composite index with all measures combined as outcomes; and with age, dialect group, and clinical status as predictors.

Results: Age and clinical status had statistically significant effects on the subset measures and the composite score. Variation between AAE and GAE dialect was not a significant factor.

Conclusion: By focusing on dialect-neutral elements of narratives—creating links across sentences and providing mental state interpretations—this study adds to our knowledge of development and impairment in narrative production among both AAE- and GAE-background children.

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