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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Communication Disorders

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Mary Andrianopoulos

Second Advisor

Shelley L. Velleman

Third Advisor

Lisa J. Green

Subject Categories

African American Studies | Bilingual, Multilingual, and Multicultural Education | Communication Sciences and Disorders | Curriculum and Instruction | Elementary Education | Elementary Education and Teaching | First and Second Language Acquisition | Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Ethnicity in Communication | International and Intercultural Communication | Language and Literacy Education | Morphology | Other Languages, Societies, and Cultures | Race and Ethnicity | Reading and Language | Semantics and Pragmatics | Special Education and Teaching | Speech Pathology and Audiology | Typological Linguistics and Linguistic Diversity


Researchers in speech-language pathology and ethnolinguistics have worked to gain knowledge about typical and atypical language patterns of African American children who are identified as African American English (AAE) dialect speakers. Much progress had been made, but limitations in this field of knowledge have persisted, especially for AA children who demonstrate variable use of AAE, presumably through the process of assimilation in the school setting. Therefore, more information is needed to provide diagnostic markers for deviations in typical language development for variable AAE-MAE speakers. Prior empirical research has found that third- and fourth-grade AAE-speaking children with typical language development overtly mark third person verbal -s, especially in written language (explicit expectation), even though they may not demonstrate overt marking of verbal -s in their spoken language (implicit expectation). The current study was conducted to identify possible distinctions in verbal -s marking between typically developing third- to fourth-grade bidialectal speakers and those with language impairment. It included 13 African American third- to fourth-grade students; seven classified as typically developing bidialectal speakers of MAE and AAE (TD; n = 7), and six bidialectal (MAE-AAE) speakers with language impairment (LI; n = 6). This study used three experimental tasks – one spoken (i.e., Spoken Responses) task that elicited responses to a verbal prompt based on a narrative text, and two written language tasks (i.e., Written Responses, Cloze Sentences). The Written Responses task elicited responses to the same prompt as the Spoken Responses task, and the Cloze Sentences task included 15 fill-in-the-blank sentences. The three tasks were used to investigate any differences and variability between clinical groups in performance, both quantitatively and qualitatively, based on language clinical group and degree of non-mainstream dialect use, when examining the participants’ use of overtly marked verbal -s. In addition, analyses were completed to examine whether there was any relationship between frequency of overt verbal -s marking in written language and performance on state achievement testing.