African American English Dialect and Performance on Nonword Spelling and Phonemic Awareness Tasks Purpose To evaluate the role of dialect on phonemic awareness and nonword spelling tasks. These tasks were selected for their reliance on phonological and orthographic processing, which may be influenced by dialect use. Method Eighty typically developing African American children in Grades 1 and 3 were first screened ... Research Article
Research Article  |   May 01, 2007
African American English Dialect and Performance on Nonword Spelling and Phonemic Awareness Tasks
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Candida T. Kohler
    University of South Florida, Tampa
  • Ruth Huntley Bahr
    University of South Florida, Tampa
  • Elaine R. Silliman
    University of South Florida, Tampa
  • Judith Becker Bryant
    University of South Florida, Tampa
  • Kenn Apel
    Florida State University, Tallahassee
  • Louise C. Wilkinson
    Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY
  • Contact author: Ruth Huntley Bahr, Communication Sciences and Disorders, University of South Florida, 4202 East Fowler Avenue, PCD 1017, Tampa, FL 33620-8150. E-mail: rbahr@cas.usf.edu.
Article Information
Development / Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Research Articles
Research Article   |   May 01, 2007
African American English Dialect and Performance on Nonword Spelling and Phonemic Awareness Tasks
American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, May 2007, Vol. 16, 157-168. doi:10.1044/1058-0360(2007/020)
History: Received March 13, 2005 , Revised March 31, 2006 , Accepted December 2, 2006
 
American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, May 2007, Vol. 16, 157-168. doi:10.1044/1058-0360(2007/020)
History: Received March 13, 2005; Revised March 31, 2006; Accepted December 2, 2006
Web of Science® Times Cited: 23

Purpose To evaluate the role of dialect on phonemic awareness and nonword spelling tasks. These tasks were selected for their reliance on phonological and orthographic processing, which may be influenced by dialect use.

Method Eighty typically developing African American children in Grades 1 and 3 were first screened for dialect use and then completed a standardized test of phonological processing and a nonword spelling measure. The influence of dialect was analyzed in both experimental tasks, followed by a qualitative analysis of dialect use in nonword spellings.

Results Dialect density measures based solely on the use of African American English (AAE) phonological features explained few differences in phonological processing scores. In contrast, correlations indicated that children with higher dialect densities produced more nonword spelling errors influenced by AAE, an effect most evident in Grade 3. Qualitative analyses revealed AAE phonological features occurring in many of the misspelled nonwords.

Conclusion After Grade 2, nonword spelling may be more sensitive to the effects of dialect variation than are phonemic awareness tasks. It is suggested that spelling may be a more sensitive clinical indicator of difficulties in integrating the phonological and orthographic information needed for fluent decoding skill.

Acknowledgments
We gratefully acknowledge the major and unique contributions of Clair Nicole Smith, Angela French, Alicia Capen, and Beulah Wynn to this study. In addition, the study was only made possible through the active participation of the administrative staff and students of the three schools who graciously allowed us access. This article is based partially on a thesis completed by the first author in the Department of Psychology at the University of South Florida. Portions of this article were presented at the 2001 meeting of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, New Orleans, LA; the 2002 Conference on Human Development, Charlotte, NC; the 2002 meeting of the International Reading Association, San Francisco, CA; and the 2006 International Reading Association Invitational Conference, “Diversity: An Essential Element in the Teaching/Learning Process,” Columbia, SC.
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