Variation Within Dialects: A Case of Cajun/Creole Influence Within Child SAAE and SWE

Oetting, Janna B.; Garrity, April Wimberly
February 2006
Journal of Speech, Language & Hearing Research;Feb2006, Vol. 49 Issue 1, p16
Academic Journal
Purpose: This study examined whether child speakers of Southern African American English (SAAE) and Southern White English (SWE) who were also perceived by some listeners to present a Cajun/Creole English (CE) influence within their dialects produced elevated rates of 6 phonological and 5 morphological patterns of vernacular relative to other SAAE- and SWE-speaking children. Method: A group comparison design was followed. The data were listener judgments, 1-min audiotaped excerpts of conversational speech, and transcribed language samples from 93 children (31 classified as specifically language impaired while the others were classified as either aged-matched or language-matched controls; 13 classified as SWE with CE, 40 classified as SWE only, 18 classified as SAAE with CE, and 22 classified as SAAE only). Results: Results indicated that children with a CE influence produced elevated rates of vernacular phonology relative to the others, with 2 patterns (nonaspirated stops and glide reduction) showing statistically significant group differences. In contrast, the children's use of vernacular morphology was unrelated to their CE status, but was instead related to their primary dialect (SWE vs. SAAE) and language ability classification (impaired vs. normal). Conclusions: The findings highlight the role of phonology in listeners' perceptions of dialect variation within 2 nonmainstream dialects (SWE and SAAE). The findings also demonstrate the ways phonological and morphological forms of vernacular can be independently influenced by different types of child variables.


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