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The purpose of this study was to examine rare vocabulary produced in the spoken narratives of school-age African American children.


Forty-three children from general and gifted classrooms produced 2 narratives: a personal story and a fictional story that was based on the wordless book Frog, Where Are You? (Mayer, 1969). The Wordlist for Expressive Rare Vocabulary Evaluation (Mahurin-Smith, DeThorne, & Petrill, 2015) was used to tally number and type of uncommon words produced in these narratives. The authors used t tests and logistic regressions to explore classroom- and narrative-type differences in rare vocabulary production. Correlational analysis determined the relationship between dialect variation and rare vocabulary production.


Findings indicated that tallies of rare-word types were higher in fictional narratives, whereas rare-word density—a measure that controls for narrative length—was greater in personal narratives. Rare-word density distinguished children in general classrooms from those in gifted classrooms. There was no correlation between dialect variation and rare-word density.


Examining school-age African American children's facility with rare vocabulary production appears to be a dialect-neutral way to measure their narrative language and to distinguish gifted children from typically developing children.