Master of Arts (MA)


Communication Sciences and Disorders

Document Type



The purpose of this study was to examine the clinical utility of two assessment measures for one group of nonstandard English dialect speakers, that of African-American English- (AAE) speaking children. The measures were mean length of utterance (MLU) and Index of Productive Syntax (IPSyn). The clinical utility of these measures was examined by comparing MLU and IPSyn values of three different groups of AAE speakers to determine if these measures are influenced by a child’s socio-economic status, dialect status, and/or clinical language status. An item analysis was also completed for IPSyn to determine if the items on this tool are appropriate language targets within AAE. Fifteen AAE-speaking children participated. They ranged in age from 66 to 79 months. Five were typically developing and solicited from middle-income families, five were typically developing and solicited from low-income families, and five were classified as specifically language impaired and solicited from caseloads of speech language clinicians. The latter group of children was drawn from both middle-income and low-income families. The findings indicated that the children’s MLU and IPSyn scores did not significantly differ as a function of their SES levels or dialect status. Unfortunately, the children’s MLU and IPSyn scores also did not differ as a function of their clinical language status. This finding suggests that these two tools, while unaffected by a child’s SES and use of a nonstandard dialect, are not sensitive to childhood language impairment when children reach the age of six years. Results from the item analysis, however, showed that 83% of the items on IPSyn received a score of 1 or 2 by at least one child in each group, and only 1 item (i.e. use of tag questions) earned a score of zero by all participants in the study. This finding indicates that items on the IPSyn are appropriate targets for speakers of AAE and suggests that this tool may be useful for younger AAE speakers.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Janna Oetting