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A description of narrative production and development in child speakers of African-American English

Tempii Bridgene Champion, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The use of oral narratives as a measure of language processing and production skills has been used with increasing frequency during speech and language evaluations. By analyzing narratives we have an insight into strategies that children use for organizing, comprehending, and producing language. Narratives also reveal how different cultural groups organize and make sense of their world. One of the shortcomings of the existing research on narratives is that it is limited in scope. That is, studies have primarily examined narrative development among Standard English (SAE) speaking children. Far less attention has been given to examining the narrative production of African American English (AAE) child speakers. Qualitatively the study design was drawn from an ethnographic perspective. African American subjects were selected from low income community of Springfield, Massachusetts, where subjects participated in two after school programs located a mile apart. Video taped and audio taped data were collected on site at the afterschool programs. A total of 15 subjects who met criteria for participation in the narrative activity were video and audio taped as the told personal stories to a familiar adult. All video tapes were transcribed for each child. A total of 71 narratives were subjected to analyses. Narratives were analyzed using five different procedures: thematic, componential, highpoint, story grammar, and a micro-sociolinguistic analysis. Among the findings were: (a) higher frequency of "topic centered" narratives than "topic associated" narratives, (b) production of a repertoire of narrative structures, (c) higher frequency of complete and complex structures than any other structures within story grammar analysis, and (d) higher frequency of the classic structure than any other structures within highpoint analysis. The clinical and theoretical implications with regard to deficit theory, Africanisms within narrative discourse, and educational and speech/language assessment for the AAE child speaker were also discussed.

Subject Area

Speech therapy|Language

Recommended Citation

Champion, Tempii Bridgene, "A description of narrative production and development in child speakers of African-American English" (1995). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9541085.