Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences


Speech Pathology and Audiology

First Advisor

Dr. Nickola W. Nelson

Second Advisor

Dr. Adelia Van Meter

Third Advisor

Dr. Yvette Hyter

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Constance Weaver

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


This was a report of an investigation of the effects of dialectal features in African American students' narratives on discourse ratings by trained judges. The question addressed in this research was whether dialectal features influence judges who are evaluating discourse. Graduate students in speech-language pathology (n = 18) learning to analyze discourse samples served as the judges. Two versions of narratives (n = 27) written by third- and fourth-grade African American students (the original version and the edited version) were used to determine if narratives that contain dialectal features would be rated lower. The judges were trained in narrative discourse analysis. For the experimental study, two discourse level rating systems were used: a story grammar scoring system arid rubrics from the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP). Results of this study found no significant difference in story grammar and MEAP scores between stories that contained dialect features and stories that did not contain dialect features. Results suggest that when judges are trained to specifically look at discourse ability, they are able to do so without being swayed by dialect.