A comparative profile of vernacular phonology: Lumbee Vernacular English and African-American Vernacular English in Robeson County

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Jackson, Stacie Jane. “A comparative profile of vernacular phonology: Lumbee Vernacular English and African-American Vernacular English in Robeson County.” Thesis.  North Carolina Central University, 1997.


Describes the phonological features (i.e., the patterning of speech sounds) of both Lumbee and African American speakers in Robeson County. Jackson devises her own phonological inventories for both sets of speakers to aid speech-language pathologists in Robeson County.  These inventories are presented as Chapter 4 of the thesis. She divides the phonological structures into three primary categories: (1) syllable structure processes, (2) substitution and assimilation processes, and (3) prosodic features (p. 42). For each phonological feature, she gives a definition and at least one phrase or sentence as an example, along with the age and gender of the speaker who used it.

Jackson developed her phonological inventory by listening to audio tapes of Lumbee and African-American speakers which were collected by the North Carolina Language and Life Project at North Carolina State University. Then, with parental consent, she administered the GFTA (Goldman Fristoe Test of Articulation) Sounds-in-Words subtest to sixteen Lumbee and sixteen African-American third and fourth grade children. The children's responses were audio taped and transcribed. The GFTA results projected two scores, one of which reflected comparison with Jackson's specially developed phonology inventory.

Jackson discusses the differences she found in scores when adjusted for the dialect differences her inventory detected. For Lumbee speakers, her comparison yielded a statistically significant difference. She concludes: “The phonological inventory can be applied to any standardized articulation measurement to equip speech-language pathologists with dialectal features characteristic of Lumbee and African-American vernacular speakers in Robeson County. The phonological inventory will provide speech-language pathologists in Robeson County with a better understanding of linguistic diversity in the clients they are to assess and treat....It is evident from this study that the use of a single method or instrument for obtaining a speech profile is definitely inadequate and may result in misdiagnosis” (p. 65).

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76 pages; 33 notes