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Amy, Wendy, and Beth

Amy, Wendy, and Beth
Learning Language in South Baltimore

A lively in-depth study of how three young children from an urban working-class community learned language under everyday conditions.

February 1982
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208 pages | 6 x 9 | 1 figure, 14 tables |

Amy, Wendy, and Beth, the 1980 recipient of the New York Academy of Sciences Edward Sapir Award, is a lively in-depth study of how three young children from an urban working-class community learned language under everyday conditions. It is a sensitive portrayal of the children and their families and offers an innovative approach to the study of language development and social class.

A major conclusion of the study is that the linguistic abilities of working-class children are consistent with previous cross-cultural accounts of the development of communicational skills and, as such, lend no support to past claims that children from the lower classes are linguistically deprived. Instead, Amy, Wendy, and Beth emerge as able and enthusiastic language learners; their families, as caring and competent partners in the language socialization process.

Sound scholarship and original findings about a hitherto neglected population of children lend special value to this work not only for scholars in psychology, linguistics, and anthropology, but for educators and policymakers as well.

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • 1. Background
    • Studies of Social Class and Language Development
    • Studies of Child Language
    • Studying Language Development in South Baltimore: Toward a Fairer Assessment of Knowledge
  • 2. Procedures
    • Research Site: South Baltimore
    • Subjects: Search and Selection
    • Design and Methods
    • Description
  • 3. The Children and Their Families
    • Amy
    • Wendy
    • Beth
  • 4. Direct Instruction in Language and Speaking
    • Naming People and Things
    • Speaking Appropriately
    • Speaking Appropriately to Dolls
    • Rhyming, Singing, and Playing Verbal Games
    • Using Correct Grammar, Pronunciation, and Intonation
    • Counting, Reciting the Alphabet, Identifying Colors
    • Other
    • Other Studies of Direct Instruction
    • Learning from Direct Instruction
    • Other Issues Related to Direct Instruction
  • 5. Combining Words to Express Meanings
    • Adequacy of the Categories
    • Sequence of Development of Semantic/Syntactic Relations
  • 6. Summaries, Conclusions, Questions
    • The Children and Their Families
    • Direct Instruction in Language and Speaking
    • Combining Words to Express Meanings
    • Inter-relating Descriptions
    • Previous Studies of the Verbal Abilities of White Children from the Lower Classes
    • Research Strategy
  • Appendices
    • A. Consent Form
    • B. Recording Equipment for Observation Sessions
    • C. Toys for Observation Sessions
    • D. Transcription Procedures
    • E. Categories of Semantic/Syntactic Relations: Definitions and Examples
  • References
  • Name Index
  • Subject Index

Peggy J. Miller is Professor of Communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


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