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Tense and agreement in child AAE and SWE (Oetting et al., 2021)

journal contribution
posted on 2021-01-20, 23:14 authored by Janna B. Oetting, Andrew M. Rivière, Jessica R. Berry, Kyomi D. Gregory, Tina M. Villa, Janet McDonald
Purpose: As follow-up to a previous study of probes, we evaluated the marking of tense and agreement (T/A) in language samples by children with specific language impairment (SLI) and typically developing controls in African American English (AAE) and Southern White English (SWE) while also examining the clinical utility of different scoring approaches and cut scores across structures.
Method: The samples came from 70 AAE- and 36 SWE-speaking kindergartners, evenly divided between the SLI and typically developing groups. The structures were past tense, verbal –s, auxiliary BE present, and auxiliary BE past. The scoring approaches were unmodified, modified, and strategic; these approaches varied in the scoring of forms classified as nonmainstream and other. The cut scores were dialect-universal and dialect-specific.
Results: Although low numbers of some forms limited the analyses, the results generally supported those previously found for the probes. The children produced a large and diverse inventory of mainstream and nonmainstream T/A forms within the samples; strategic scoring led to the greatest differences between the clinical groups while reducing effects of the children’s dialects; and dialect-specific cut scores resulted in better clinical classification accuracies, with measures of past tense leading to the highest levels of classification accuracy.
Conclusions: For children with SLI, the findings contribute to studies that call for a paradigm shift in how children’s T/A deficits are assessed and treated across dialects. A comparison of findings from the samples and probes indicates that probes may be the better task for identifying T/A deficits in children with SLI in AAE and SWE.

Supplemental Material S1. Examples of regular past tense form types and scoring approaches

Supplemental Material S2. Supplemental analyses.

Oetting, J. B., Rivière, A. M., Berry, J. R., Gregory, K. D., Villa, T. M., & McDonald, J. (2021). Marking of tense and agreement in language samples by children with and without specific language impairment in African American English and Southern White English: Evaluation of scoring approaches and cut scores across structures. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. Advance online publication.


This research was supported by National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders Grants RO1DC009811 and RO1DC009811-03S1 (awarded to Janna Oetting, Janet McDonald, andMichaelHegarty)