Veronica Jimenez-Harrison, a bilingual speech-language pathologist, is pursuing a doctorate at Adelphi University.

by Cecil Harris

A bilingual speech-language pathologist who works with English and Spanish speakers, Veronica Jimenez-Harrison is pursuing a doctorate at Adelphi University through original research into the cognitive differences between African Americans who use colloquial “Black English” and those who communicate in Standard English.

“I want to see how much of a difference there is, or if there’s an awareness of dialect shifting when the verbs are presented to African Americans both orally and visually,” said Jimenez-Harrison, whose research will be conducted at the Neurophysiology in Speech Language Pathology Lab (NSLP Lab) at the Hy Weinberg Center for Communication Disorders.

“Veronica’s work is invaluable,” said Reem Khamis-Dakwar, Ph.D., director of the NSLP Lab and a speech-language pathologist and associate professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, who will supervise the research. “This study models a new approach to studying the unique situation of diglossia in African Americans who are expected to read and write in a language that differs from their native language.” (Diglossia refers to the presence of two varieties of the same language within one community—one acquired naturally and used mainly in daily communication, and the other learned in schools and used in formal communication.)

Finding the 10 people for her study should not be difficult, Jimenez-Harrison said.

“I work in the [Hempstead school district], which is mostly African American; the population for my research is right there,” she said. “I’m also considering having college students be part of the research to look at the different perspectives in African American speakers.”

As part of the study, an electroencephalogram (EEG), which measures electrical activity in the brain, will be used to gather information from each participant. Adelphi’s Ruth S. Ammon School of Education paid for Jimenez-Harrison and fellow Ph.D. candidate Melody Zambriski to receive intensive EEG skills training at Electrical Geodesics, Inc., in Eugene, Oregon, this past summer. Joseph Hoffman, Ph.D. ’14, also had EEG skills training at Adelphi’s expense before earning his doctoral degree in speech-language sciences and disorders.

Jimenez-Harrison, who lives in Levittown, New York, earned a bachelor’s degree from Pace University and a master’s degree from LIU Brooklyn. She considers Adelphi the ideal place to pursue her Ph.D.

“Adelphi is the only college on Long Island that offers a part-time Ph.D. program in Communication Sciences and Disorders,” she said. “As a working Long Island resident, it’s great having a program of this quality close to home.”

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