Why, and when, do we learn to speak the way that we do? Research from North Carolina State University on African-American children presents an unexpected finding: language use can go on a roller-coaster ride during childhood as kids adopt and abandon vernacular language patterns.
“We found that there is a ‘roller-coaster effect,’ featuring an ebb and flow in a child’s use of vernacular English over the course of his or her language development,” says Dr. Walt Wolfram, William C. Friday Distinguished University Professor of English Linguistics at NC State and co-author of several recent papers describing the research. “This was totally unanticipated.” Vernacular English is defined here as culturally specific speech patterns that are distinct from standard English; in this case, the vernacular is African-American English (AAE). (more…)