Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communication Sciences and Disorders

Document Type



This study’s purpose was to examine the acquisition and use of BE, DO, and modal auxiliaries by African American English (AAE)-speaking children. The impetus for this work was the lack of information regarding the developmental trajectory of these auxiliary types and their use, in AAE relative to what is known about auxiliary acquisition and use in Mainstream American English (MAE). The study used two datasets of language samples: one that contained 48 language samples from 3 ½-year-old children and one that contained 36 longitudinal language samples of five children who were between 18 and 51 months of age. Results from Dataset 1 indicated that young AAE-speaking children’s auxiliary systems contain BE, DO, and modal contexts. Overt marking of auxiliaries within these contexts was related to type of auxiliary and the children’s dialect densities. Of the three auxiliary types, overt marking was most variable for BE followed by DO, and least variable for modals. Overt marking of BE was influenced by succeeding verbal element and grammatical type of BE form. Overt marking of both BE and DO was influenced by syntactic construction. In contrast, overt marking of modals was high in all contexts. Results from Dataset 2 revealed that initial production of auxiliary contexts occurred between 19 and 24 months. For BE, DO, and modals, the range of forms produced was initially restricted but expanded as the children aged. Percentage of overt marking did not increase by age. Instead, overt marking was variable across the developmental period for BE and DO, but high in all contexts for modals. Also, from very young ages, the overt marking of BE and DO was influenced by the same linguistic variables examined with Dataset 1. Together the findings indicate that young AAE-speaking children’s use of BE, DO, and modals is consistent with what has been documented for adult AAE in the amount and nature of their overt marking; however, the children’s dialect density influenced the degree to which the children’s use of BE, DO, and modals aligned with the adult AAE literature. Nevertheless, AAE-speaking children’s BE, DO, and modals emerged at the same ages and in the same general developmental sequence as MAE-speaking children.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Oetting, Janna