Master of Arts (MA)


Communication Sciences and Disorders

Document Type



The present study was designed to describe and quantify patterns of pronoun use by African American English (AAE)-speaking children with specific language impairment (SLI) relative to their AAE-speaking typically developing (TD) peers. Pronouns were of interest because: they are produced frequently in everyday speech, they are often targeted when a child’s language abilities are evaluated by a speech-language pathologist, and limited pronoun data exists for AAE-speaking children. The data were language samples that had been elicited from 96 children (35 SLI, 61 TD) enrolled in kindergarten. The samples were searched for 11 different pronoun forms, and these were coded as either mainstream or nonmainstream forms. In addition, the children’s use of different types of appositive pronouns was examined. Results showed that the majority of the children’s pronouns reflected mainstream forms that were consistent with General American English (GAE). Of those classified as nonmainstream, three patterns (i.e., subjective for genitive, objective for genitive, and objective for subjective) were classified as productive because they were produced by more than 10% of the children. Although both groups of children produced these three pronoun patterns, those with SLI produced them at higher rates, and higher rates of objective for genitive pronouns accounted for the group difference. Specifically, the patterns them for their and him for his were produced more frequently per target context by children with SLI than TD children. Both groups also produced appositive pronouns; the frequency of these were low (.5%), and the most frequent were appositives involving she, he, and they. These findings suggest that both TD children and children with SLI who speak AAE produce various pronoun patterns that can be considered nonmainstream. However, the majority of their pronouns reflect mainstream forms. Differences between those with and without SLI were minimal, with the former producing more objective for genitive pronouns than the latter. If replicated, the findings suggest that current assessment tools should be modified to specifically target genitive forms. If this is done, multiple items targeting genitive pronouns should be included to capture rate-based differences in their use between children with and without SLI.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Oetting, Janna B