Janice Jackson, another team member who is also working on a Ph.D. in communication disorders, conducted an experiment using pictures of Sesame Street characters to test children’s comprehension of the ‘habitual be’ construction. She showed the kids a picture in which Cookie Monster is sick in bed with no cookies while Elmo stands nearby eating cookies. When she asked, ‘Who be eating cookies?’ white kids tended to point to Elmo while black kids chose Cookie Monster. ‘But,’ Jackson relates, ‘when I asked, “Who is eating cookies?” the black kids understood that it was Elmo and that it was not the same. That was an important piece of information.’ Because those children had grown up with a language whose verb forms differentiate habitual action from currently occurring action (Gaelic also features such a distinction, in addition to a number of West African languages), they were able even at the age of five or six to distinguish between the two.
Charles C. Smith, Understanding African-American English (via mappingthemoon)
OHMYGOD I LOVE LANGUAGE
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