Influence of context on the production of complex sentences by typically developing children

Harriet B. Klein, Nelson Moses, Rachel Jean-Baptiste

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: This study was designed to identify types of complex-sentence meanings (i.e., content) produced in selected elicitation contexts by typically developing children within 3 different age groups. The research was motivated by the need for additional evidence-based assessments and interventions for children with language disorders. Method: Participants included 3 groups of typically developing children, mean ages 2;8 (years;months; Cohort 1), 3;4 (Cohort 2), and 4;7 (Cohort 3). Four elicitation contexts distinguished on the basis of degree of spontaneity and the potential for eliciting complex sentences were used: free-play, script-play, elicited description, and story retelling. Tasks within these contexts were presented to each child over two 1-hr sessions. Results: Significant differences were found among the cohorts for proportion of complex-sentence productions overall, across contexts, and across content categories. Significant relationships were found between content and contexts and between adult model and content of the child's following utterance. Conclusions: Findings suggest that children's complex-sentence production changes with development and is sensitive to features of linguistic and nonlinguistic contexts. These data provide evidence for the types of complex-sentence content that may be expected in specified contexts, thus serving as a basis for planning assessment and intervention for children with language disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)289-302
Number of pages14
JournalLanguage, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2010


  • Complex sentences
  • Elicitation contexts
  • Language content
  • Typically developing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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