Utterance Length, Syntactic Complexity, and Childhood Stuttering This study examined relationships among utterance length, syntactic complexity, and stuttering in children's conversational speech. Analyses extended prior research by examining several different aspects of syntactic complexity, including sentence structure, clause structure, and phrase structure. Subjects were 12 boys who stutter, age 40 to 66 months, who produced 75-utterance conversational ... Research Article
Research Article  |   April 1999
Utterance Length, Syntactic Complexity, and Childhood Stuttering
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • J. Scott Yaruss
    Stuttering Center of Western Pennsylvania University of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh, PA
  • Contact author: J. Scott Yaruss, PhD, Communication Science and Disorders, The University of Pittsburgh, 4033 Forbes Tower, Pittsburgh, PA 15260.
    Contact author: J. Scott Yaruss, PhD, Communication Science and Disorders, The University of Pittsburgh, 4033 Forbes Tower, Pittsburgh, PA 15260.×
  • Corresponding author: e-mail: jsyaruss@csd.upmc.edu
Article Information
Speech, Voice & Prosodic Disorders / Fluency Disorders / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Speech / Research Articles
Research Article   |   April 1999
Utterance Length, Syntactic Complexity, and Childhood Stuttering
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, April 1999, Vol. 42, 329-344. doi:10.1044/jslhr.4202.329
History: Received October 3, 1997 , Accepted October 7, 1998
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, April 1999, Vol. 42, 329-344. doi:10.1044/jslhr.4202.329
History: Received October 3, 1997; Accepted October 7, 1998

This study examined relationships among utterance length, syntactic complexity, and stuttering in children's conversational speech. Analyses extended prior research by examining several different aspects of syntactic complexity, including sentence structure, clause structure, and phrase structure. Subjects were 12 boys who stutter, age 40 to 66 months, who produced 75-utterance conversational speech samples during free-play interactions with their mothers. Group analyses revealed significant differences between fluent and stuttered utterances in terms of all measures of utterance length and several measures of syntactic complexity. Analysis of the relationships between utterance length and syntactic complexity identified several measures of syntactic complexity that influenced stuttering and were independent of utterance length. Logistic regression analyses revealed that utterance length was better than syntactic complexity at predicting whether stuttering would occur, though neither utterance length nor syntactic complexity was a particularly strong predictor for individual subjects' data. Thus, findings suggest that utterance length and syntactic complexity cannot, by themselves, adequately account for the occurrence of stuttering in children's conversational utterances.

Acknowledgments
The author expresses his appreciation to Nan Bernstein Ratner, Karla McGregor, Cynthia Thompson, and Ken Logan for their input regarding the analysis of syntactic complexity in children's conversational speech and also to Patricia Zebrowski for helpful discussions about the interpretation of these findings in terms of current psycholinguistic models. The author is also grateful to Nina Capone for her assistance with interjudge measurement reliability. Portions of this manuscript were completed while the author was on the faculty of Northwestern University.
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