Passive Participle Marking by African American English--Speaking Children Reared in Poverty

Pruitt, Sonja L.; Oetting, Janna B.; Michael Hegarty
April 2011
Journal of Speech, Language & Hearing Research;Apr2011, Vol. 54 Issue 2, p598
Academic Journal
Purpose: In this study, the authors examined the linguistic profile of African American English (AAE)-speaking children reared in poverty by focusing on their marking of passive participles and by comparing the results with the authors' previous study of homophonous forms of past tense (S. Pruitt & J. Oetting, 2009). Method: The data were from 45 five- to six-year-olds who spoke AAE and who participated in the authors' earlier study. Fifteen were classified as low-income ( LSES); the others were classified as middle-income and served as either age- or language-matched controls. The data came from a probe that was designed by S. M. Redmond (2003), but it was modified to examine the morphological and phonological characteristics of AAE. Results: Participle marking by all 3 groups was influenced by AAE phonology, but the LSES children marked the participles at lower rates than the controls. The LSES children's rates of participle marking were also lower than their rates of marking for homophonous forms of past tense. Unlike the children's rates of past-tense marking, their rates of participle marking were correlated to their vocabulary test scores. Conclusions: AAE-speaking children reared in poverty present weaknesses in aspects of grammatical morphology that are related to their vocabulary weaknesses.


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