Grammatical Morpheme Production in 4-Year-Old Children Despite the importance of grammatical morpheme (GM) production for both clinical decision-making and theoretical accounts of child language impairment, evidence concerning developmental expectations for GM use is inadequate. We studied grammatical morpheme production in 15-minute spontaneous language samples from a large (N=100), sociodemographically diverse group of 4-year-olds. Substantial variability was ... Research Article
Research Article  |   October 01, 2002
Grammatical Morpheme Production in 4-Year-Old Children
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Denise V. Balason
    University of Pittsburgh and Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh, PA
  • Christine A. Dollaghan
    University of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh, PA
  • Contact author: Denise Balason, University of Pittsburgh, Department of Communication Science and Disorders, 4033 Forbes Tower, Pittsburgh PA 15260. E-mail: dvbst4@pitt.edu
Article Information
Language Disorders / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   October 01, 2002
Grammatical Morpheme Production in 4-Year-Old Children
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, October 2002, Vol. 45, 961-969. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2002/078)
History: Received March 4, 2002 , Accepted May 5, 2002
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, October 2002, Vol. 45, 961-969. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2002/078)
History: Received March 4, 2002; Accepted May 5, 2002
Web of Science® Times Cited: 21

Despite the importance of grammatical morpheme (GM) production for both clinical decision-making and theoretical accounts of child language impairment, evidence concerning developmental expectations for GM use is inadequate. We studied grammatical morpheme production in 15-minute spontaneous language samples from a large (N=100), sociodemographically diverse group of 4-year-olds. Substantial variability was observed in both the frequency of obligatory contexts (OCs) and in the percentage of correct usage of GMs. For only one morpheme did all 100 samples contain the minimum number of 3 OCs; for only 7 of the 14 GMs was an adequate number of OCs found in at least half of the 100 samples. Although mean percentages of production from samples with 3 or more OCs were high (> 85%), fewer than 25% of participants contributed to the ‘group’ means for 6 of the 14 GMs. Results from the present investigation indicate a need for caution in interpreting information on GM production derived from samples of this nature from children at this age; the validity of using such data to identify deficits in inflectional morphology for either clinical or research purposes appears questionable.

Acknowledgments
This study was supported by a research grant (HD26026) from the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (Jack L. Paradise MD, Principal Investigator), the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, and gifts from SmithKline Beecham Laboratories and Pfizer Inc. Thanks are also due to the entire research team of the Child Development in Relation to Early Otitis Media study at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, as well as to the children and their families whose participation made this research possible.
Results from this study were presented at the Symposium for Research on Child Language Disorders in June 2001.
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