Linguistic illusions and misconceptions: The role of language variation in language development across three varieties of American English


  • Christiana Christodoulou University of Mississippi
  • Ianthi Maria Tsimpli



African American English, Southern English, dialectal variation, linguistic development, linguistic varieties of American English, language development across age


Prior research on the linguistic abilities of Southern English- (SE) and African-American English-speaking children (SAAE) revealed unexpectedly high rates of risk for a language disorder (Christodoulou & Tsimpli 2021; Moland & Oetting 2021). This study examines the performance of 139 SE-, 46 SAAE-, and 35 Mainstream American English-speaking children (MAE), aged 2-13, and analyzes their performance, through twelve sections, in four key linguistic domains: syntax, semantics, pragmatics, and phonology, using a standardized assessment test. Results revealed a parallel performance across the three groups in all linguistic domains. The highest means of accuracy were noted with phonology and the lowest with semantics. Analysis of the participants’ performance by age evidenced a virtually identical performance across the three groups after age 6 or 7, but considerable variations were noted with younger children. Results from the current study contradict results from previous work showing considerably high rates of risk for a language disorder for the SAAE-speaking children, as their performance is parallel to not only that of SE-speaking children but it also the performance of MAE-speaking children. Results from the current study could help guide educational policies, especially for early education programs, as well as diagnostic assessment and rehabilitation.

Author Biography

  • Christiana Christodoulou, University of Mississippi

    Research Assistant Professor 

    C-107 Bondurant Hall

    Department of Modern Languages

    University of Mississippi




How to Cite

Christodoulou, Christiana, and Ianthi Maria Tsimpli. 2023. “Linguistic Illusions and Misconceptions: The Role of Language Variation in Language Development across Three Varieties of American English”. Proceedings of the Linguistic Society of America 8 (1): 5532.