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date: 18 July 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter addresses what patterns of African American English (AAE) usage are demonstrated prior to adolescence by highlighting evidence from a longitudinal corpus of AAE spanning 11 years in the lives of ~70 African American children, from pre-kindergarten to mid-adolescence. Through a series of studies on this data set, a picture has emerged of what general AAE development looks like—primarily, that children utilize a roller coaster pattern of AAE use, peaking and dipping at relatively consistent points in their lives (but to varying degrees). At the same time, their vocalic systems remain fairly stable. These speakers appear to gradually acquire competence in style-shifting between AAE and mainstream American English, but the sample is diverse in terms of when/how this competence emerges. Finally, these analyses reveal when important family, educational, and social factors impact AAE language development most acutely.

Keywords: African American English (AAE), style-shifting, mainstream American English, language development

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