Article/Report  |   April 1998
Average C-Unit Lengths in the Discourse of African American Children From Low-Income, Urban Homes
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Special Populations / Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / Language
Article/Report   |   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.

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