Semin Speech Lang 2004; 25(1): 13-25
DOI: 10.1055/s-2004-824822
Copyright © 2004 by Thieme Medical Publishers, Inc., 333 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001, USA.

Theoretical and Empirical Bases for Dialect-Neutral Language Assessment: Contributions from Theoretical and Applied Linguistics to Communication Disorders

Barbara Zurer Pearson1
  • 1Research Associate, Department of Communication Disorders, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, Massachusetts
Further Information

Publication History

Publication Date:
15 April 2004 (online)

Three avenues of theoretical research provide insights for discovering abstract properties of language that are subject to disorder and amenable to assessment: (1) the study of universal grammar and its acquisition; (2) descriptions of African American English (AAE) Syntax, Semantics, and Phonology within theoretical linguistics; and (3) the study of specific language impairment (SLI) cross-linguistically. Abstract linguistic concepts were translated into a set of assessment protocols that were used to establish normative data on language acquisition (developmental milestones) in typically developing AAE children ages 4 to 9 years. Testing AAE-speaking language impaired (LI) children and both typically developing (TD) and LI Mainstream American English (MAE)-learning children on these same measures provided the data to select assessments for which (1) TD MAE and AAE children performed the same, and (2) TD performance was reliably different from LI performance in both dialect groups.


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Barbara Zurer PearsonPh.D. 

Department of Communication Disorders, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA 01003.