Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communication Sciences and Disorders

Document Type



The purpose of this study was to document the auxiliary and copula BE system of African American (AA) children with Gullah/Geechee (GG) heritage and to compare the findings to those from African American English (AAE)-speaking children without this heritage and to what has been documented in previous studies of Gullah and AAE. The data came from 38 children, aged five to six years. Nineteen were from rural South Carolina and classified as GG, and 19 were from rural Louisiana and classified as AAE. All were developing language typically, and the groups were matched on a number of socio-demographic variables and language test scores. The children’s 4,114 productions of BE were elicited using a standardized language screener, probes, and language samples. The GG group produced some patterns of BE that aligned with previous studies of Gullah. These included 81 BEEN and four də forms and variable marking of AM (69%) and WAS/WERE (63% - 88%). Similar to adult AAE, the AAE group did not produce BEEN or də, and they produced categorically high rates of AM and WAS/WERE, with higher rates of overtly marked AM than IS. The GG group also produced patterns of BE that were consistent with both Gullah and AAE. These included variable marking of IS and ARE, with IS > ARE, and significant effects for contractibility (contractible > uncontractible), grammatical function (copula > auxiliary) and preceding contexts (it/that/what > noun > pronoun), although the statistical significance of these effects varied by the type of analysis completed. The AAE group also produced these patterns. These findings indicate that although language contact has led to evolution and change in Gullah, vestiges of this language variety can still be found in the BE system of modern day AA children with GG heritage.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Oetting, Janna