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Elicited and open -ended narratives in African American children

Frances A Burns, University of Massachusetts Amherst


An important limitation exists in the literature in that only a few studies have examined the narrative development of children who speak a dialect other than Mainstream American English (MAE). The current investigation comprised two studies, which examined African American English (AAE) and MAE speakers' production of critical narrative features, including reference contrast, temporal links, reference to mental states, and theory of mind explanations when given the Diagnostic Evaluation of Language Variation-Criterion Referenced (DELV-CR) narrative task, and during open-ended narratives. The relationship between AAE dialect density level, narrative organizational style, and grounding was also examined. A total of 78 participants (53 AAE, 25 MAE) were included in Study 1. Results indicated no significant differences (p < .05), between dialect groups in their performance on individual measures or the overall narrative task. There was a significant and equivalent developmental growth within and among groups for the individual narrative measures and overall narrative score. In Study 2, the narrative organizational styles of African American participants ranging in age from 5;9–11;6, with high and low AAE dialect density levels were compared. The relationship between AAE dialect density, backgrounded information produced in open-ended narratives, and the overall narrative score from the DELV-CR was examined. Results indicated that AAE dialect density was not a predictor of narrative organizational style nor amount of backgrounded information in open-ended narratives. Both groups primarily produced topic centered followed by topic associating narratives. There was a trend toward topic associating narratives having more backgrounded information, however quantitative analysis did not yield statistical differences in backgrounded information between the two narratives styles. Neither age nor AAE dialect density level was significantly correlated with the overall narrative score for these participants. Critical narrative features were mostly mastered in this group (average age = 7;8). Findings show that narrative organizational style is not dialect specific and critical narrative features can be successfully assessed in a dialect neutral way for young AAE speakers.

Subject Area

Speech therapy

Recommended Citation

Burns, Frances A, "Elicited and open -ended narratives in African American children" (2004). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3152676.