Expressive and receptive language effects of African American English on a sentence imitation task

J M Terry, S C Jackson, Evangelos Evangelou, R L Smith

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This study tests the extent to which giving credit for African American English (AAE) responses on a General American English sentence imitation test mitigates dialect effects. Forty-eight AAE-speaking second graders completed the Recalling Sentences subtest of the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals-Third Edition (1995). A Bayesian Markov Chain Monte Carlo method was used to determine the relationship between the students' scores and the presence of third person singular -s, a feature largely absent from AAE morphosyntax, in the subtest sentences. Even when given credit for AAE responses, the estimated effect of third person singular -s was significant, high relative to those of negation and counterfactual conditional if + ed, and correlated with an independent measure of the students' rootedness in AAE syntax. It is argued that these results reveal a receptive language effect not addressed by crediting dialect productions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-134
Number of pages16
JournalTopics in Language Disorders
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2010



  • sentence imitation
  • dialect
  • morphosyntax
  • assessment
  • African American English

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