The Influence of Culture, Class, and Linguistic Diversity on Early Language Development

Zero to Three 01/2006;


Effective intervention for early language delay in minority and poor children is difficult to provide because we know so little about its prevention, assessment, and treatment. This article provides an overview of an "integrative model of minority child development" that considers the influence of social factors such as race and class to explore how cultural and economic differences influence the processes of language development and the language skills of African American toddlers from poor backgrounds. The authors share findings from several studies that examine African American toddlers' performance on a variety of scales: measuring early language and grammatical abilities; the use of cultural dialect, known as African American English; and the influence of socioeconomic status on their vocabulary and word-learning abilities. The findings suggest that African American children demonstrate unique developmental trends in their processes of language acquisition while at the same time they demonstrate similar levels of language ability to that of the same-aged, White, Standard American English-speaking peers. Furthermore, standardized vocabulary measures provide an isolated and limited view of young African American children's true language learning abilities.

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