African American Vernacular English Dialect Analysis

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Nearly every American speaks a dialect of English that varies from the dialect that is considered “correct,” or Standard American English (SAE); however, although dialects are entirely acceptable variants of English, some dialectal speakers experience increased prejudice and hardships due to their speech patterns, such as negative stigmas and intelligibility issues. A common hardship experienced by children who speak African American Vernacular English (AAVE), which is spoken by many African Americans, is increased difficulty mastering many literacy skills in schools. To explain, because AAVE differs in the syntax, phonology, semantics, and pragmatics from SAE, many children having difficulty mediating between the language system they are learning…show more content…
Phonological awareness is a vital skill to learning to read; however, a child’s dialect use can negatively impact their phonological awareness skills and makes it more difficult for children to learn to read (Mitri & Terry, 2014). To explain, in a study of 119 African American second graders, the children who used AAVE more frequently performed more poorly and chose more dialect sensitive responses, or words that contain features that vary depending on dialect use, on the phonemic awareness tasks than the children who used AAVE less frequently. For example, Mitri and Terry (2014) provided the children with a common word, such as bed, and asked the participants to select the word that resembled the initial word from three possible responses: a SAE match, such as red, a dialect sensitive match, such as net, and a neutral match, such as egg. In this instance, the children who spoke AAVE more frequently were more likely to choose “net” than their peers who used AAVE less frequently due to the common devoicing of final consonants. Additionally, the children with higher phonological awareness had increased reading ability (Mitri & Terry, 2014). Moreover, children’s phonological awareness skills can be strengthened and used as a tool to mediate the differences between their language system and SAE. For example, Connor and Craig (2006) evaluated the language…show more content…
For instance, the Craig, Thompson, Washington, and Potter (2004) evaluated the performance of 65 African American second through fifth graders on the Gray Oral Reading Test (GORT); although most of the students used AAVE features in their oral language, the younger participants used AAVE more frequently than the older children. The research team found that children using AAVE have decreased accuracy and reading rate but no deficits in comprehension (Craig, Thompson, Washington, & Potter, 2004). As a result, although they are able to comprehend the testing material, African American children often do poorly on standardized tests due to the dialectal differences. However, many teachers and schools use a child’s performance on standardized tests to evaluate their development and identify learning disorders, and many African American children are often determined to have a learning disability although their poor performance on standardized tests are a result of their dialect. Conversely, a similar study evaluated 217 African American kindergarten through second graders on their familiarity with SAE instead of their use of AAVE. The results indicate that the children who were more familiar with SAE had higher levels of reading achievement than the children who were less familiar with SAE (Charity, Scarborough, & Griffin, 2004). The amount of AAVE children use and their

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