Purpose: This study compared the development of essential elements of narrative skill in children from African American English (AAE)- and general American English (GAE)-speaking communities using an innovative elicitation and evaluation protocol consisting of four key indices of narrative language: (a) reference contrasting, (b) temporal expressions, (c) mental state descriptions, and (d) understanding of behavior based on false belief. Method: Participants were 291 AAE speakers and 238 GAE speakers, 4 to 9 years of age. Approximately one-third of both dialect groups were identified as having language impairments. Children generated 2 stories based on short picture sequences. Their stories were coded for the 4 key indices of narrative language. Analyses of variance were performed with subsets of the measures and a composite index with all measures combined as outcomes; and with age, dialect group, and clinical status as predictors. Results: Age and clinical status had statistically significant effects on the subset measures and the composite score. Variation between AAE and GAE dialect was not a significant factor. Conclusion: By focusing on dialect-neutral elements of narratives—creating links across sentences and providing mental state interpretations—this study adds to our knowledge of development and impairment in narrative production among both AAE- and GAE-background children.
Journal or Book Title
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools.