Variation in Vowel Duration Among Southern African American English Speakers Purpose Atypical duration of speech segments can signal a speech disorder. In this study, we examined variation in vowel duration in African American English (AAE) relative to White American English (WAE) speakers living in the same dialect region in the South to characterize the nature of systematic variation between the ... Research Article
Research Article  |   August 01, 2015
Variation in Vowel Duration Among Southern African American English Speakers
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Yolanda Feimster Holt
    East Carolina University, Greenville, NC
  • Ewa Jacewicz
    The Ohio State University, Columbus
  • Robert Allen Fox
    The Ohio State University, Columbus
  • Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication.
    Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication. ×
  • Correspondence to Yolanda Feimster Holt: holty@ecu.edu
  • Editor: Krista Wilkinson
    Editor: Krista Wilkinson×
  • Associate Editor: Diane Kendall
    Associate Editor: Diane Kendall×
Article Information
Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Research Articles
Research Article   |   August 01, 2015
Variation in Vowel Duration Among Southern African American English Speakers
American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, August 2015, Vol. 24, 460-469. doi:10.1044/2015_AJSLP-14-0186
History: Received October 29, 2014 , Revised March 27, 2015 , Accepted May 4, 2015
 
American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, August 2015, Vol. 24, 460-469. doi:10.1044/2015_AJSLP-14-0186
History: Received October 29, 2014; Revised March 27, 2015; Accepted May 4, 2015

Purpose Atypical duration of speech segments can signal a speech disorder. In this study, we examined variation in vowel duration in African American English (AAE) relative to White American English (WAE) speakers living in the same dialect region in the South to characterize the nature of systematic variation between the 2 groups. The goal was to establish whether segmental durations in minority populations differ from the well-established patterns in mainstream populations.

Method Participants were 32 AAE and 32 WAE speakers differing in age who, in their childhood, attended either segregated (older speakers) or integrated (younger speakers) public schools. Speech materials consisted of 14 vowels produced in hVd-frame.

Results AAE vowels were significantly longer than WAE vowels. Vowel duration did not differ as a function of age. The temporal tense–lax contrast was minimized for AAE relative to WAE. Vowels produced by females were significantly longer than vowels produced by males for both AAE and WAE.

Conclusions African American speakers should be expected to produce longer vowels relative to White speakers in a common geographic area. These longer durations are not deviant but represent a typical feature of AAE. This finding has clinical importance in guiding assessments of speech disorders in AAE speakers.

Acknowledgments
This publication was made possible by National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders Grants R01DC006871 and F31 DC009105. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.
Order a Subscription
Pay Per View
Entire American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology content & archive
24-hour access
This Article
24-hour access