Exploratory examination of speech disfluencies in spoken narrative samples of school-age bidialectal children


Purpose: This study examined the relationship between school-age children’s speech disfluencies and the use of and variation of Mainstream American English (MAE) and African American English (AAE). Given that bilingual children may present with notably more speech disfluencies than monolingual children (Byrd, Bedore, et al., 2015), it was hypothesized that bidialectal speaking children (i.e., those that use both MAE and AAE) may exhibit higher speech disfluencies, as compared to children who speak mainly MAE and those who mainly speak AAE. It was also hypothesized that bidialectal speaking children would exhibit a greater variety of speech disfluency types when compared to the other two dialect groups (i.e., MAE and AAE). Method: School-age children (n = 61) with typical development and fluency were classified into three dialect groups: MAE speakers (n = 21), bidialectal MAE-AAE speakers (n = 11), and AAE speakers (n = 29). Tell-retell narrative samples were elicited from each participant using a wordless picture book. Speech disfluencies exhibited during these narrative samples were examined for frequency of stuttering-like and nonstuttering-like speech disfluencies and type of speech disfluency. Results: Findings indicated that bidialectal speaking children do not present with a higher frequency of speech disfluencies when compared to children who speak MAE and children who speak AAE. Additionally, there were no differences in the types of speech disfluencies exhibited by the different dialect groups.
Conclusions: Unexpected findings of the current study nullify both hypotheses and suggest that bidialectalism, in comparison to bilingualism, has less of an impact on speech fluency. Findings provide evidence that bidialectal speaking children are not at an increased risk for stuttering or a misdiagnosis of stuttering. Clinically, these preliminary findings provide some scientific validity and specification to the appropriateness of using already established diagnostic criteria commonly used for stuttering with dialect speakers.



Speech disfluency, Stuttering, Narrative language, Bidialectal, African American English, School-age children


Copyright 2022 author(s). This item was deposited by the author(s) prior to publication. Recommended citation: Johnson, Kia N. and Monique T. Mills. “Exploratory examination of speech disfluencies in spoken narrative samples of school-age bidialectal children.” American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology (2022). URL: https://pubs.asha.org/journal/ajslp