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
  • Correspondence to Sarita Eisenberg: eisenbergs@mail.montclair.edu
  • Editor: Marilyn Nippold
    Editor: Marilyn Nippold×
  • Associate Editor: Amy Weiss
    Associate Editor: Amy Weiss×
Article Information
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: Received October 25, 2010 , Revised March 10, 2011 , Accepted June 3, 2011
 
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, January 2012, Vol. 43, 36-52. doi:10.1044/0161-1461(2011/10-0093)
History: Received October 25, 2010; Revised March 10, 2011; Accepted June 3, 2011
Web of Science® Times Cited: 2

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.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT
This project was supported by Award R21DC009218 from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) to the first author. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of NIDCD or the National Institutes of Health. The authors are grateful to the children who participated in the study as well as to their parents who allowed them to participate and to the research assistants who collected and transcribed the samples. Portions of this study were presented at the 2010 Symposium for Research on Child Language Disorders in Madison, WI.
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