Article  |   January 2012
How Grammatical Are 3-Year-Olds?
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Sarita L. Eisenberg
    Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ
  • Ling-Yu Guo
    University at Buffalo–The State University of New York, Buffalo, NY
  • Mor Germezia
    Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ
  • Associate Editor: Amy Weiss
    Associate Editor: Amy Weiss×
  • Editor: Marilyn Nippold
    Editor: Marilyn Nippold×
  • Correspondence to Sarita Eisenberg: eisenbergs@mail.montclair.edu
Normal Language Processing / Language Disorders / Speech, Voice & Prosody
Article   |   January 2012
How Grammatical Are 3-Year-Olds?
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools January 2012, Vol.43, 36-52. doi:10.1044/0161-1461(2011/10-0093)
History: Accepted 03 Jun 2011 , Received 25 Oct 2010 , Revised 10 Mar 2011
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools January 2012, Vol.43, 36-52. doi:10.1044/0161-1461(2011/10-0093)
History: Accepted 03 Jun 2011 , Received 25 Oct 2010 , Revised 10 Mar 2011

Purpose: This study investigated the level of grammatical accuracy in typically developing 3-year-olds and the types of errors they produce.

Method: Twenty-two 3-year-olds participated in a picture description task. The percentage of grammatical utterances was computed and error types were analyzed.

Results: The mean level of grammatical accuracy in typical 3-year-olds was ∼71%, with a wide range of variability. The current study revealed a variety of error types produced by 3-year-olds, most of which were produced by fewer than 5 children. The pattern observed for most of the children was to produce a scattering of errors with no more than a few of any 1 error type.

Conclusion: The level of grammatical accuracy in 3-year-olds was skewed toward the high end. Although tense marking errors were the most frequent error type, they accounted for only 1/3 of the errors produced by 3-year-olds. A more general measure of grammaticality that considers additional aspects of language might, therefore, be useful in assessing language at this age.

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