Macrostructure in the narratives of Estonian children with typical development and language impairment

Piret Soodla, Eve Kikas
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research: JSLHR 2010, 53 (5): 1321-33

PURPOSE: This study examined the macrostructure in Estonian children's narratives according to the story grammar (SG) model. The study's aims were to determine whether differences exist in narrative macrostructure between Estonian- and English-speaking children, among typically developed (TD) children, and between children with and without language impairment (LI).

METHOD: A clinical group of 18 children with LI (ages 6-8) and a control group of 216 TD children (ages 6-7), divided into 3 language competence subgroups, participated in the study. Narratives were analyzed for the presence of SG components and quantity of story information units.

RESULTS: Estonian children's narratives reflected age-expected SG structures similar to those of children in English-speaking countries. The analyses revealed significant group influences for the setting category, demonstrating the superior skills of TD children with high language competence in starting stories, compared with their peers. The quantity of story information units differed significantly between the high and low language competence TD subgroups, likewise between the control and the clinical groups.

CONCLUSIONS: The contrasts between stories of TD children and between TD and LI children are discussed. The findings support the suitability of the SG model in terms of quantity of story information units for language assessment.

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