First Advisor

Rhea Paul

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Speech Communication


Speech Communication




Narration (Rhetoric), Children -- Language, Slow learning children



Physical Description

1 online resource (3, vi, 84 p.)


Proficiency in various higher level language skills is necessary to integrate and organize units of meaning beyond the sentence level. Examining narratives has become a useful tool for assessing these language abilities. Narrative skills are considered by many researchers to be a strong link between oral language and literacy, and related to academic performance (Westby, 1991; Roth & Spekman, 1991). The present study was part of the Portland Language Development Project, a longitudinal study of early language delay. The purpose of this study was to assess higher level language abilities by examining the stories of 6-year-olds with normal, impaired, and late developing oral language. The specific objective was to determine whether there were differences on 9 measures of narrative skill in first graders that could be related to their pattern of language acquisition. The original group size was 24 children with normal expressive vocabulary size at age 20-34 months, and 30 children whose expressive vocabulary size fell below the normal range at 20-34 months referred to as "late talkers." These two groups of children were re-evaluated when in first grade. Each child was audiotaped producing a narrative and a spontaneous language sample. The Bus Story (Renfrew, 1977), a story retelling procedure, was administered for the narrative measure. When the spontaneous, conversational language samples were scored for syntactic complexity with Lee's (1974) Developmental Sentence Score (DSS), 22 (73°/o) of the original L T had scores in the normal range and were reclassified as "History of Expressive Language Delay" (Hx). The remaining 8 (27°/o) who continued to fall below the normal range were now classified as "Expressive Language Delayed" (ELD). The narrations produced by all of the children were scored on nine measures: narration length in T-units, mean length perT-unit in morphemes, type-token ratio, average number of morphemes in the five longest sentences, information retold, lexical richness, cohesion, percentage of new propositions produced, and narrative stage assignment. No significant differences were found among the three diagnostic groups on the following seven measures: narration length in T-units, mean length perT-unit in morphemes, type-token ration, information retold, lexical richness, cohesion, or percentage of new propositions produced. Significant differences were found among groups on the average number of morphemes in the five longest sentences. Both the normal group and the Hx group scored significantly higher than the ELD group. Significant differences were found between the normal group and both the Hx group and the ELD group on the measure of narrative stage assignment. The present study suggested that children with early language delay appear to "catch up" with normal peers in most areas of narrative ability by age 6. Of the variables examined in this study, the production of an overall mature narrative was the primary deficit noted in children with a history of expressive language delay. Language intervention should focus not only on morphology and syntax, but also on basic story grammar knowledge. Children with an expressive language delay as well as children with a history of language delay may need additional teaching and training of narrative skills in order to succeed with literacy.


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