American Dialect Society Anaheim, CA Jan. 2006 The Impact of Dialect on the Rate and Order of Phonological Development Shelley L. Velleman*, Barbara Zurer Pearson*, Timothy J. Bryant+ & Tiffany [email protected] *University of Massachusetts-Amherst + University of New Hampshire @ Agawam Public Schools
With special thanks to The Psychological Corporation, Corporation who collected the data, a host of dedicated graduate and undergraduate students, and our colleagues in the UMass NIH Working Groups on AAE.
AAE: African American English • Also called African American Vernacular English (AAVE), Black English, Ebonics, etc. – Spoken by many Blacks in the U.S. – Pronunciation in some respects similar to Southern American English – Pronunciation and grammar in some respects similar to West African languages – Shares many characteristics with other Creole English dialects spoken by Blacks • Stigmatized in the U.S. • Children who speak AAE are often referred for special education or speech-language pathology services
Terminology We are comparing MAE learners to “AAE learners” BUT AAE learners are actually learning both dialects; AAE is their 1st dialect, so we are making the assumption that it will have the most impact on the order and rate of their phonological development
Key Segmental Features of AAE Predicted to be Contrastive Same phonemic repertoire (with possible exception of voiced “th”) but • Interdental fricatives replaced by labiodentals or alveolars, depending on context • Postvocalic liquids: Vowelized, absent; /r/ hyperarticulated (varies geographically) • Final obstruents more weakened (devoiced, glottalized), especially alveolars • str-, “shr-” skr- (lexical?)
Key Phonotactic Features of AAE Predicted to be Contrastive Same structural repertoire but • Weak syllable deletion from iambics (or “stress shift” to trochaic) • Final consonant clusters reduced at higher rate, especially /___##C • Final obstruents and nasals omitted more frequently, especially alveolars, especially /____##C • Avoid sonority violations (lexical “metathesis”, very stigmatized) Thus, phonotactic structures tend to be less complex
Impact of Ambient Language Previous cross-linguistic research has shown that frequency of occurrence impacts rate and order of phonological acquisition: – – – – – Kehoe & Lleo, 2002 Demuth, 2002 Roark & Demuth, 2000 Pearson et al., 1995 Boysson-Bardies & Vihman, 1991
Research Question What is the impact on rate and order of phonological development of learning two dialects that differ primarily with respect to frequency of occurrence, especially of complex phonotactic structures?
Hypothesis 1 • Frequency will impact rate and order of acquisition even in two dialects with the same phonemic and phonotactic inventories Non-contrastive elements same exposure in both equivalent mastery in both Contrastive elements less exposure in one dialect later mastery in that dialect
Hypothesis 2 • Phonotactic and segmental frequency will interact Most segments will be contrastive only in marked environments For AAE, only interdental fricatives will be contrastive in all environments, marked and unmarked
Hypothesis 3 • In the dialect with less exposure to more complex phonotactic structures (AAE), phonetic development will outpace phonotactic development (in comparison to MAE). – AAE will have more phonotactic nonmatches to MAE than segmental; MAE vice versa
Other characteristics of the sample: • Selection criteria included demographics of community of residence (predominantly African American vs. European American) • Region: South (60%), North Central (25%), Northeast (6%), West (9%) • Parent Education Level 77% ≤ HS (overselected because AAE usage is higher in lowerincome homes)
Phonetic order of acquisition: Initial consonants Initial Consonants d r, s Voiced “th” MAE Age of Mastery 4 6 8 AAE Age of Mastery 5 4 ≥12 Dialects differ at p=.014 but p=.952 without voiced “th”. All other initial consonants, including voiceless “th”, acquired at the same time in both dialect groups.
Phonetic order of acquisition: final C’s Final Consonants MAE age of mastery (90%) AAE age of mastery (90%) b, “j”, l 4 5 k, g, v 4 6 d, t 4 8 s, z 6 4 Voiced, voiceless “th” 10 ≥12 p <.0001 for age and dialect, even without voiced “th”. Unexpected result: Non-morphological final /s, z/ mastered earlier by AAE learners
Initial Cluster Dialect Differences Reminder: In AAE •str- skr e.g., [skrit] street •“shr-” skre.g., [skrImp] shrimp (Lexical?) Note: Even in contrastive clusters such as these, /r/ itself is relatively preserved.
Production of Final Clusters (p<.0001) Final Cluster -mp -ks, -”ng”k, -rl -rf, -nt -ld -lt -rd -rs -rt All others MAE age of mastery 4 4 4 4 4 5 6 6 various ≤10 AAE age of mastery 4 5 6, 8 10 >12 8 5 10 >12
/d/: less frequent in final position in AAE (glottalized, devoiced, omitted) • 4 years difference between AAE & MAE in final position • 1 year difference between AAE & MAE in initial position • More vulnerable in other marked contexts, e.g., more frequent non-match in unstressed syllables even in initial position (dusty vs. destroy)
But that includes final consonants and final clusters, both of which tend to be omitted -- no surprise. What if we focus our analysis only on initial clusters, which are: • Not significantly different in % mismatches by dialect • Not yet mastered by either group?
Summary 1. Certain segments (e.g., voiced “th”) and positions (e.g., ___#) are contrastive between dialects 2. A deficit model is inappropriate: Frequencies of occurrence in the dialect influence order of acquisition • MAE speakers acquire certain phonemes (t, d, interdentals) ahead of AAE speakers • AAE speakers acquire certain phonemes (s, r) ahead of MAE speakers
Summary, cont. 3. There are interactions between phonotactic and segmental frequency effects (e.g., /d/) 4. Focus on learning complex phonotactics delays acquisition of more difficult segments (MAE); decreased attention to complex phonotactics lowers age of acquisition of later segments, even in more challenging contexts (AAE)
References • • • • • • • • Boysson-Bardies, B., & Vihman, M. M. (1991). Adaptation to language: Evidence from babbling and first words in four languages. Language, 67, 297-319. Charko, T. & Velleman, S. (2003, July). The influence of dialect of children’s phonotactic constraint rankings (ND children). Poster presented at the Child Phonology Conference, UBC. Craig, H. K. & Washington,J. A. (2004). Grade-related changes in the production of African American English. JSHR, 47(2), 450-463. Kehoe, M., & Lleo, C. (2002). The acquisition of syllable types in monolingual and bilingual German and Spanish children. Paper presented at the Boston University Conference on Language Development 27, Boston, MA. Pearson, B. Z., Navarro, A. M., & Gathercole, V. M. (1995). Assessment of phonetic differentiation in bilingual learning infants, 18 to 30 months. In D. MacLaughlin & S. McEwen (Eds.), Proceedings of the 20th Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development (pp. 427-438). Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press. Roark, B., & Demuth, K. (2000). Prosodic constraints and the learner's environment: A corpus study. In S. C. Howell, S. A. Fish & T. Keith-Lucas (Eds.), Proceedings of the 24th Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development (pp. 597-608). Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press. Seymour, H.N. & Pearson, B. Z. (Eds.), 2004. Evaluating language variation: Distinguishing dialect and development from disorder. Seminars in Speech and Language, 25 (1), Seymour, H. N., Roeper, T., & de Villiers, J. (2003, 2005) Diagnostic Evaluation of Language Variation DELV, Screening Test and DELV-Norm Referenced. The Psychological Corp., San Antonio, TX.