Dialect Awareness and Lexical Comprehension of Mainstream American English in African American English–Speaking Children Purpose This study was designed to examine the relationships among minority dialect use, language ability, and young African American English (AAE)–speaking children's understanding and awareness of Mainstream American English (MAE). Method Eighty-three 4- to 8-year-old AAE-speaking children participated in 2 experimental tasks. One task evaluated their awareness of ... Research Article
Research Article  |   October 2014
Dialect Awareness and Lexical Comprehension of Mainstream American English in African American English–Speaking Children
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Jan Edwards
    University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • Megan Gross
    University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • Jianshen Chen
    University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • Maryellen C. MacDonald
    University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • David Kaplan
    University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • Megan Brown
    University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • Mark S. Seidenberg
    University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication.
    Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication.×
  • Correspondence to Jan Edwards: jedwards2@wisc.edu
  • Megan Brown is now at Georgia State University.
    Megan Brown is now at Georgia State University.×
  • Editor: Rhea Paul
    Editor: Rhea Paul×
  • Associate Editor: Shelley Gray
    Associate Editor: Shelley Gray×
  • © American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
Article Information
Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   October 2014
Dialect Awareness and Lexical Comprehension of Mainstream American English in African American English–Speaking Children
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, October 2014, Vol. 57, 1883-1895. doi:10.1044/2014_JSLHR-L-13-0228
History: Received August 23, 2013 , Revised January 20, 2014 , Accepted May 29, 2014
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, October 2014, Vol. 57, 1883-1895. doi:10.1044/2014_JSLHR-L-13-0228
History: Received August 23, 2013; Revised January 20, 2014; Accepted May 29, 2014
Web of Science® Times Cited: 3

Purpose This study was designed to examine the relationships among minority dialect use, language ability, and young African American English (AAE)–speaking children's understanding and awareness of Mainstream American English (MAE).

Method Eighty-three 4- to 8-year-old AAE-speaking children participated in 2 experimental tasks. One task evaluated their awareness of differences between MAE and AAE, whereas the other task evaluated their lexical comprehension of MAE in contexts that were ambiguous in AAE but unambiguous in MAE. Receptive and expressive vocabulary, receptive syntax, and dialect density were also assessed.

Results The results of a series of mixed-effect models showed that children with larger expressive vocabularies performed better on both experimental tasks, relative to children with smaller expressive vocabularies. Dialect density was a significant predictor only of MAE lexical comprehension; children with higher levels of dialect density were less accurate on this task.

Conclusions Both vocabulary size and dialect density independently influenced MAE lexical comprehension. The results suggest that children with high levels of nonmainstream dialect use have more difficulty understanding words in MAE, at least in challenging contexts, and suggest directions for future research.

Acknowledgments
This work was supported by a Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery Seed grant, awarded to Mark S. Seidenberg; National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders grant R01 02932 and National Science Foundation grant BCS-0729140, awarded to Jan Edwards; and by National Institute of Child Health and Human Development P30 HD03352 grant, awarded to the Waisman Center. We are grateful to all of the children who participated in this study and to their families as well. We also thank Ruby Braxton, Alia Dayne, Elisabeth Piper, Doris Leeper, Monique Mills, Jenny Saffran, Daragh Sibley, and Julie Washington for their contributions to many aspects of this research program.
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