Social Class Differences in Children’s Syntactic Performance: A Quantitative Analysis of Field Study Data Our objective was to determine whether statistically reliable social class differences would be found in the degrees and types of syntactic elaboration in the speech of selected Negro and white, male and female, fifth- and sixth-grade children from whom language samples had been obtained in the Detroit Dialect Study. The ... Research Article
Research Article  |   December 01, 1969
Social Class Differences in Children’s Syntactic Performance: A Quantitative Analysis of Field Study Data
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Frederick Williams
    University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin
  • Rita C. Naremore
    University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin
Article Information
Research Articles
Research Article   |   December 01, 1969
Social Class Differences in Children’s Syntactic Performance: A Quantitative Analysis of Field Study Data
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 1969, Vol. 12, 778-793. doi:10.1044/jshr.1204.778
History: Received January 23, 1969
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 1969, Vol. 12, 778-793. doi:10.1044/jshr.1204.778
History: Received January 23, 1969

Our objective was to determine whether statistically reliable social class differences would be found in the degrees and types of syntactic elaboration in the speech of selected Negro and white, male and female, fifth- and sixth-grade children from whom language samples had been obtained in the Detroit Dialect Study. The corpus of some 24,000 words represented the speech of children selected from relatively low and middle ranges of a socioeconomic scale used in the original study. A quantitative description of syntactic elaboration was obtained by using a modified immediate constituents procedure which provides coding of the structural divisions of English sentences. Results indicated reliable social class differences on a variety of indices, mostly indicating that children from the higher status sample tended to employ more, and more elaborated, syntactic patterns. Such status differences generally prevailed across the sexes, but did vary across the levels of a topical variable and the race variable. Results were considered to be applicable to the Bernstein (1964) thesis of social class differences in modes of speech, and further illustrative of a strategy for studying verbal performance (as contrasted with competence).

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