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date: 16 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

African American English (AAE) is a major American dialect. Recent research has focused on student patterns of AAE feature usage and found important relationships between AAE and reading achievement. This chapter provides background information on the nature of dialects and then focuses specifically on AAE, identifying the major features that characterize child discourse. Intrinsic student factors and extrinsic influences on feature production are discussed as well. An important influence on AAE feature production is style shifting: the changes a speaker makes to his or her speaking patterns in response to differences in the communication context. The chapter will discuss recent research that shows an inverse relationship between AAE feature production and reading achievement, and the mounting evidence that a student’s ability to style shift from AAE to Standard American English in literacy tasks is positively related to reading achievement. A final section of the chapter identifies needed directions for future research.

Keywords: African American English, American dialect, reading achievement, style shifting, literacy, feature production, elementary students, bidialectalism

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