Average C-Unit Lengths in the Discourse of African American Children From Low-Income, Urban Homes This investigation reports average length of communication units (C-nits) in words and in morphemes for 95 4- to 6 1/2-year-old African American boys and girls from lower-income homes in metropolitan Detroit. Mean C-units increased across the age span of this sample, and kindergartners produced significantly longer C-units than preschoolers. The ... Research Article
Research Article  |   April 1998
Average C-Unit Lengths in the Discourse of African American Children From Low-Income, Urban Homes
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Holly K. Craig
    University of Michigan Ann Arbor
  • Julie A. Washington
    University of Michigan Ann Arbor
  • Connie Thompson-Porter
    University of Michigan Ann Arbor
  • Contact author: Holly K. Craig, PhD, University of Michigan, 1111 E. Catherine Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109–2054. Email: hkc@umich.edu
Article Information
Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   April 1998
Average C-Unit Lengths in the Discourse of African American Children From Low-Income, Urban Homes
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, April 1998, Vol. 41, 433-444. doi:10.1044/jslhr.4102.433
History: Received December 9, 1996 , Accepted August 28, 1997
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, April 1998, Vol. 41, 433-444. doi:10.1044/jslhr.4102.433
History: Received December 9, 1996; Accepted August 28, 1997

This investigation reports average length of communication units (C-nits) in words and in morphemes for 95 4- to 6 1/2-year-old African American boys and girls from lower-income homes in metropolitan Detroit. Mean C-units increased across the age span of this sample, and kindergartners produced significantly longer C-units than preschoolers. The syntactic complexity of the children's language samples correlated positively with increases in C-unit length, and regression analyses revealed that syntactic complexity was the best predictor of mean C-unit length. Children with longer average C-unit lengths produced greater frequencies of all types of syntactic complexity. Their language samples were distinguished from children with shorter mean C-unit lengths by clauses linked with coordinate and subordinate conjunctions. The findings indicate that average C-unit length will be useful as a quantitative index of linguistic growth in research designs focusing on young school-age African American children living in poverty.

Acknowledgments
This investigation was supported by research grant number 1 RO1 DC 02313–01A1 from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, National Institutes of Health. Special thanks to the principals, teachers, parents, and students of the Oak Park, MI public school system for supporting this project.
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