SYNTACTIC AND LEXICAL ALIGNMENT DURING NATURALISTIC CONVERSATIONS AMONGST AFRICAN AMERICAN PARENTS OF 4-YEAR-OLD CHILDREN FROM PROFESSIONAL- AND WORKING-CLASS FAMILIES

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2023

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Abstract

Parents play an important role when it comes to child language development. This study examines differences in lexical and syntactic alignment, in child-directed speech (CDS), between African American mothers and fathers from the professional- and working-class. The Hall (1984) corpus from the Child Language Data Exchange System (CHILDES; MacWhinney, 1991) was used to analyze syntactic and lexical alignment in African American professional- and working-class parent-child dyads (children aged 4;6). We investigated the proportion of overlapping nouns shared between mother-child and father-child dyads, as well as differences between parent-child syntactic complexity scores (i.e., Mean Length of Utterance-words (MLU-w), and Verbs per Utterance (Verbs/utt). Results revealed there to be no significant differences regarding lexical and syntactic alignment between the professional- and working-class families; however, fathers were found to produce a significantly higher average proportion of overlapping nouns compared to mothers.

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