The Effects of Children's Language Comprehension Level on Adults' Child-Directed Talk The present study attempted to test quasi-experimentally the hypothesis that children's language comprehension level is the major determinant of the modifications characteristic of child-directed talk (CDT). Language comprehension level was varied by selecting four-year-old, language-impaired children with two levels of comprehension. Data on 21 measures of structural and pragmatic aspects ... Research Article
Research Article  |   September 01, 1980
The Effects of Children's Language Comprehension Level on Adults' Child-Directed Talk
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Anne Van Kleeck
    University of Texas, Austin
  • Robert L. Carpenter
    University of Washington, Seattle
Article Information
Research Articles
Research Article   |   September 01, 1980
The Effects of Children's Language Comprehension Level on Adults' Child-Directed Talk
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, September 1980, Vol. 23, 546-569. doi:10.1044/jshr.2303.546
History: Received September 5, 1978 , Accepted July 23, 1979
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, September 1980, Vol. 23, 546-569. doi:10.1044/jshr.2303.546
History: Received September 5, 1978; Accepted July 23, 1979

The present study attempted to test quasi-experimentally the hypothesis that children's language comprehension level is the major determinant of the modifications characteristic of child-directed talk (CDT). Language comprehension level was varied by selecting four-year-old, language-impaired children with two levels of comprehension. Data on 21 measures of structural and pragmatic aspects of CDT were obtained from videotapes of 20 half-hour, freeplay sessions in which each of ten adults talked individually with one child from each level. A t test for paired samples generated four significant differences (p < 0.05). Language addressed to the high comprehending children contained (1) more frequent use of the semantic category state, (2) greater lexical diversity, (3) more frequent reference to nonpresent objects, persons, and events, and (4) less frequent nonverbal cueing. Variation in the children's comprehension strategies appears to provide a better explanation for these differences than variation in their comprehension of language structure. An alternate explanation of the results, the conversational model, proved of limited value in explaining structural CDT modifications.

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