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Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders


Geralyn R. Timler

Rory DePaolis

Susan Ingram

Helean McPhee


Purpose. Information on the morpho-syntax development of children who speak varieties of Bahamian English, such as Bahamian Creole English (BCE), remains understudied. Therefore, speech-language pathologists (SLPs) assessing the expressive language of children who speak BCE encounter challenges in making clinical judgments of language difference, developmental errors, and language disorder because they are unable to judge the morpho-syntactic features of this creole to the rules of another variety of Bahamian English, standard English (SE1), as both varieties, BCE and SE, are independently rule-governed. This dissertation study investigated the morpho-syntax of typically developing four and six-year-old Bahamian children who speak BCE and SE, addressing this overarching research question: What are the surface morpho-syntactic features of typically developing four and six-year-old children who speak BCE and SE?

Methods. A mixed group design was used to examine age and grade differences between and within groups. Data were collected from 20 typically developing participants; seven four-year-olds, and thirteen six-year-olds. Measures included the Children’s Communication Checklist-2 (Bishop, 2003), an articulation screening, a hearing screening, two 10-minute language samples (one collected with the examiner modeling BCE, the second with the examiner modeling SE), two administrations of the Multilingual Assessment Instrument for Narratives (Gagarina et al., 2012) with the examiner modeling SE and then BCE, the Rice Wexler Test of Early Grammatical Impairment Screening Test (Rice & Wexler, 2001), and sentence imitation subtest from the Test of Language Development (TOLDP-5; Newcomer & Hammill, 2019). Language samples and narrative tasks were transcribed and coded using the Systematic Analysis of Language Transcripts (Miller & Iglesias, 2016). BCE and SE morpho-syntactic features and differences across assessment methods were compared, the percentage of feature use across tasks was examined, and developmental differences between four and six-year-old children were investigated.

Results. When BCE feature production was examined following both BCE and SE modeling, four and six-year-olds did not significantly differ in the amount of BCE features used during the language sample, story retell, and story generation task; however, a subgroup of six-year-olds who were in second grade produced more BCE features during the story generation task when BCE was modeled than when SE was modeled. All other grade comparisons were not statistically significant. When BCE feature production was examined between tasks, both four-year-olds and six-year-olds used more BCE features during the sentence completion task than during the language sample. All other age and grade related comparisons were not statistically significant. Four and six-year-olds had variable marking of verb-related morpho-syntactic features.

Conclusions. Bahamian children’s BCE feature use does not significantly vary between BCE and SE adult language models. However, task affected BCE use. The sentence completion test elicited more BCE use than conversation samples. Further, six-year-olds appear to be more sensitive to adult language use as they were more likely to use BCE when the adult used BCE. Age differences appeared in production of specific morpho-syntactic patterns. For example, six-year-olds produced did + verb, and does + verb; these forms were not observed in younger children. Variable use of BCE features among four and six-year-olds support the need for further investigation of BCE forms that may indicate language disorder within BCE, rather than relying on SE forms to determine disorder.

Funding Source. This study was funded by The Graduate School at James Madison University and a Language Learning dissertation research grant.

[1] Standard English in The Bahamas, or Bahamian Standard English (BSE) has influence from British Standard English, as it was previously a British colony, and also from American Standard English, due to proximity. As the syntax of children who speak BSE, British Standard English, and American Standard English should not vary, the standard variety of English will be referred to as Standard English, or SE throughout this proposal.


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