Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Science in Communication Sciences & Disorders (MSCSD)

Document Type

Master's Thesis


Health Sciences


Communication Sciences & Disorders

First Advisor

Dr. Joneen Lowman


Word learning requires the accurate encoding and decoding of a word’s phonological and semantic properties. Errors in establishing an accurate phonemic-semantic connection can hinder accurate word comprehension and use. Geographical location, culture, and ethnicity can affect the phonology used by a speaker referred to as dialect. African American Vernacular English (AAVE) is one of the most commonly used dialects in the United States. In addition to grammatical changes AAVE is characterized by phonemic changes. The current study sought to determine the effects of AAVE use on the receptive and expressive learning of nonsense words that differ in meaning as noted by a single phonological difference. Four African American children in grades one and two were taught 12 minimal pairs of nonsense words. Three of the four children were identified as non AAVE speakers and one child was identified as an AAVE speaker. Each word in the pair had a specific meaning and each pair differed by a single phonological property reminiscent of AAVE dialect. Four sets of minimal pairs were taught across three consecutive days. Results indicate better performance on receptive measures than on expressive measures across all children. Analysis of error types did not detect a higher percentage of errors due to AAVE between the two groups of children.