Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Communication Sciences and Disorders

Major Professor

Ruth Huntley Bahr, Ph.D.


AAE, MAE, Word learning, Dialect shifting, Literacy skills


Previous research has shown that African American children are prone to score lower on vocabulary tests when compared to their white peers (Champion et al., 2003; Qi et al., 2006; Restrepo et al., 2006; Thomas-Tate et al., 2006; Washington & Craig, 1992). The dialect spoken by these children may be affecting their performance. However, little is known about how dialect use interacts with word learning abilities. The current study continues a project initiated by Wyatt, Bahr, and Silliman (2007) which examined dialectal influences on the fast mapping of novel stimuli in preschool children. The participants in the current study were 19 typically developing school-age children, who were recruited from a local elementary school in West Central Florida. Prior to the experiment, the children completed a dialectal variation assessment (DELV) and a receptive vocabulary assessment (PPVT-4).

The fast mapping task utilized a modified version of the blank-comparison technique (Costa, Wilkinson, McIlvane, & de Souza, 2001). For this task, twelve non-words were developed to include three AAE phonetic features: final consonant cluster reduction, backing in /str/ clusters, and final consonant devoicing. The non-words were presented in five tasks (training, recognition, comprehension, dialect, and production). Participant responses were analyzed qualitatively and described by dialect group and AAE feature. It was anticipated that fast mapping would be influenced by dialect use; however, this was not the case.

Dialect played a small role in the comprehension task -- children who spoke AAE experienced more difficulty with /skr/ non-words. Otherwise, results indicated that responses, especially during the dialect and productions tasks, were similar with numerous errors noted in both dialect groups. A notable difference was in the production of final consonant clusters, where children who spoke AAE evidenced a slight advantage. The lack of a dialect group effect was not surprising since these tasks required the participant to respond to subtle phonetic differences in the target stimuli. As a whole, dialectal influences seemed to be task and feature related. These results will be compared to the previous investigation with preschoolers (Wyatt et al., 2007) and implications for future research will be presented.