Degree Granting Department
Communication Sciences and Disorders
Ruth H. Bahr, Ph.D.
Nathan Maxfield, Ph.D
Jean Krause, Ph.D
Categorical perception, African American English, phonological processing, literacy development, final consonant devoicing
Children at risk for reading problems also have difficulty perceiving critical
differences in speech sounds (Breier et al., 2004; Edwards, Fox, & Rogers, 2003; de-
Gelder & Vroomen, 1998). These children rely more heavily on context than the acoustic
qualities of sound to facilitate word reading. Dialect use, such as African American
English (AAE) may influence literacy development in similar ways. Dialect use has been
shown to affect speech sound processing and can even result in spelling errors (Kohler, et
al., in press). The purpose of this study is to determine if children who speak AAE
process cues indicative of final consonant voicing differently than children who speak a
more mainstream dialect of English.
Twenty-six typically developing children in grades K-2 who spoke either AAE or
a more mainstream American English dialect participated. The speech stimuli consisted
of nonsense productions of vowel + plosive consonant. These stimuli were systematically
altered by changing the vowel and stop-gap closure duration simultaneously, which
resulted in the final consonant changing from a voiced consonant, like “ib”, to a voiceless
consonant, like “ip”. Two tasks were developed: a continuum task where the child had to
indicate when the stimuli changed in voicing and a same-different task which involved
determining if two stimuli were identical in voicing or not.
No significant differences between groups were found for dialect use or grade for
the same/different task. In the continuum task, chi-square analyses revealed significant
differences in response patterns attributable to dialect and grade. In addition, a significant
consonant by speaker interaction was found for mean ratings. Correlations between mean
continuum rating and phonological awareness composites were not significant.
In conclusion, it was evident that children who speak AAE present with
differences in their perception of final consonants in VC nonsense syllables. This finding
suggests the dialect speakers may be using different cues to make judgments regarding
the speech signal, or that the speakers of AAE have a less mature ability to extract fine
phonetic detail due to the influence of their dialect (Baran & Seymour, 1979). More
research is warranted to determine the exact role that dialect plays.
Scholar Commons Citation
Kile, Stacy Nicole, "The Influence Of Dialect On The Perception Of Final Consonant Voicing" (2007). USF Tampa Graduate Theses and Dissertations.