Date of Award

Summer 8-8-2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Psychology and Special Education

First Advisor

Dr. Julie Washington

Second Advisor

Dr. Debra Mckeown

Third Advisor

Dr. Cynthia Puranik

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Robert Hendrick

Fifth Advisor

Dr. Judith Emerson


The overarching purpose of both dissertation studies is to contribute to the extant literature base on language assessment in the context of poverty and African American English (AAE) dialect. Language assessment with culturally and linguistically diverse populations, in particular children who speak AAE, has been a longstanding challenge for professionals in the field of speech-language pathology despite the preponderance of scholarly attention this topic has received. The purpose of the first study is to conduct a systematic review of the literature to synthesize the existing literature on AAE from the past approximately three and a half decades, to identify aspects of language and assessment approaches that have been most informative for identifying language impairment in this population. The purpose of the second study is to examine the grammaticality judgments of school-age, AAE-speaking children as a function of their nonmainstream dialect density and language ability. Data for this study came from 273 African American children from low-income backgrounds who were participants in a larger project focused on language and literacy outcomes for children reared in urban areas. the relationship between language ability and dialect density was explored using correlational analysis and the contribution of language ability and dialect density on grammaticality judgments was analyzed using multiple regression. Finally, a multivariate analysis of variance was conducted to investigate the impact of dialect density and language ability on various items that differed in grammatical constructions. Results from both studies are discussed relative to the existing oral language profiles of AAE speakers and the impact of linguistic variation on assessment. Together, these papers contribute to the extant literature by supporting the development of a more comprehensive profile of AAE and increasing the field's understanding of language assessment and language impairment in child AAE speakers.