First Advisor

Rhea Paul

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

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


Speech Communication


Language disorders in children -- Longitudinal studies, Language acquisition -- Longitudinal studies, Children -- Language -- Testing



Physical Description

1 online resource (4, v, 78 p.)


Researchers have successfully labeled specific patterns of expressive language development as it appears in children developing language normally. Little research has identified particular patterns of expressive language in children who display expressive language disorders or delays. Longitudinal studies of expressively language impaired children indicate that linguistic, educational and social impairments exist long after the language impairment was first identified (Aram, Eckelman and Nation, 1984; Aram and Nation, 1980; Fundudis, Kolvin and Garside, 1979; Stark, Berstein, Condino, Bender, Tallal and Catts, 1984). If patterns of delayed or disordered language development are researched and possibly labeled in the early stages of language development, strategies for assessment and intervention can be made more efficient and the effects of early language impairment on later academic achievement may be prevented. The present study was part of the Portland Language Project, a longitudinal study of early language delay. Lee's Developmental Sentence Scoring (DSS) was used to attempt to identify syntactic patterns used by children exhibiting early language delay. The DSS is a standardized measure for analyzing children's standard English expressive language abilities in the following eight grammatical categories: 1) indefinite pronouns; 2) personal pronouns; 3) main verbs; 4) secondary verbs; 5) negatives; 6) conjunctions; 7) interrogative reversal; and 8) Wh-Questions. Using the DSS, specific syntactical areas of deficit can be identified by analysis of an audiotaped speech sample. A comparison of expressive language in the eight subcategories in the DSS was completed among three groups of preschool children; 1) children developing language normally (the NL group); 2) children who did not meet criteria for normal language development at 20 months, but later fell within the normal range of language development as measured by the DSS (Lee, 1974). This is referred to as the history of expressive language delay group (HELD); and 3) children who did not meet criteria for normal language development at 20 months and again, did not meet criteria for normal language development as measured by the DSS (Lee, 1974) at later ages. This is referred to as the expressive language delay group (ELD). The purpose of this study was to determine if significant differences exist in each of the eight subcategory group scores from the DSS between those children identified as expressively language delayed and those identified as developing language normally at ages three and four. At age three, significant differences were found among the three groups in all eight subcategory scores of the DSS. By age four, the significant differences were found between the delayed group and the normal developing group in the main verb category and the personal pronoun category only. There were no significant differences between the normal developing and the history of delay groups on any of the eight categories at age four. The delayed group exhibited marked improvement and narrowed the deficits in expressive language to a specific area of language. The present study suggested that children with early language delay appear to "catch up" with normal peers in most areas of syntactic production by age four. The DSS (Lee, 1974) provides information about specific areas of syntactic development. Due to the length and complexity of the DSS, it is not a tool that practicing clinicians often use. A study such as this may help the practicing clinician quickly screen a preschool child in a specific syntactic category, such as verb marking, in order to check for possible early language delay. In addition to providing clinical assistance, this study has opened up the door for future research in syntactic development. This study could be expanded to examine the specific verb markers that are being used by the delayed subjects. This may lead to more efficient identification and remediation of early language delays.


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