African American English and Its Relation to Literacy Skills in Early Adolescence

This research examined the production and development of African American English (AAE) through early adolescence, the potential impact of vernacular dialect on the literacy acquisition of African Americans from school entry through middle school, and the youth, family, and school factors that may affect this linkage. The study built on a unique, longitudinal database collected over the past 14 years for a group of 70 African American adolescents from low- and middle-income families whose language and literacy skills, as well as family and school environments, have been progressively documented since infancy. A supplemental longitudinal sample of 70 friends of the study youth were also recruited to participate for the middle school period. The project described the longitudinal development of African American English (AAE) from school entry through middle school, the youth, family, and school factors that influence these patterns, and their impact on the acquisition of literacy of African American youth. The study addressed the social and educational implications of the most significant sociocultural variation of American English. Understanding the factors that affect the vernacular variations and literacy achievement of African American adolescents is critical for addressing the academic achievement gaps between African Americans and their non-minority peers in American society.

FPG Project Staff:
Funding Agency: National Science Foundation
Funding Period: 04/01/2006 - 03/31/2009
Award Amount: $386,991