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Purpose: The well-known decline in the use of African American English (AAE) features by groups of school-aged AAE-speaking children was reexamined for patterns of overt-, zero-, and mixed-marking for individual features and individual speakers. Methods: Seven hundred twenty-nine typically developing children between the ages of 4 and 12—511 AAE-speakers learning General American English (GAE) as a second dialect, and 218 GAE-speaking controls—were administered the morphosyntax subtest of theDialect Sensitive Language Test (Seymour, Roeper, & de Villiers, 2000). Responses to 33 items probing 10 target features were coded for overt marking, zero marking, or neither. A feature-by-feature marking profile for each child allowed us to track how many children at each age were characterized by 100% overt, zero, or mixed marking for different combinations of features. Results/Conclusions: Findings suggest that no feature was overtly marked for all AAE-first children at any age, and the “mixed” pattern of usage was the most common trend across individual speakers even at age 12 years. Exclusive use of zero marking beyond age 8 years was rare and may serve as a diagnostic indicator.

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Topics in Language Disorders






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