A Comparison of Oral and Written English Styles in African American Students at Different Stages of Writing Development


Purpose: The purpose of this investigation was to compare the rates of using African American English (AAE) grammatical features in spoken and written language at different points in literacy development. Based on Kroll's model (1981), a high degree of similarity in use between the modalities was expected at Grade 3, and lower similarity was expected at Grade 8.

Method: Spoken and written language samples were analyzed for the occurrence of 6 AAE morphosyntactic features. Fifteen third graders and 15 eighth graders were asked to respond to interview questions and to retell stories in both modalities. Percentage use of the AAE grammatical features and a dialectal density measure were used to measure rates of AAE occurrence.

Results: Findings indicated comparable use of dialect in spoken and written modalities for 3rd graders, but a difference in use between the modalities for 8th graders. The 8th graders used more dialectal features in speaking than writing.

Conclusion: These results suggest that there is likely a period in writing development when speakers of AAE learn to dialect switch in their writing.


Communication Sciences and Disorders

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Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools