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UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The transition to syntax : influences on children’s constructional complexity Lapadat, Judith Colleen


The complexity of children's linguistic constructions in conversation during the transition from single-word to multiword speech was measured in six conditions produced by manipulating the adult interaction variables, familiarity, attention, and conversational control. Subjects were four children, ages 1;9 to 2;3, and their mothers. The children's constructions were categorized according to three levels of complexity (single words, vertical constructions, horizontal constructions), in four tasks (high attention, low attention, high control, low control), during dialogues with their mothers, then with strangers. While their proportion of complex to less complex constructions was not related to adult familiarity or attention, children produced significantly more complex constructions (p = .005) when they controlled the conversation. Further analyses of the children's frequency of constructions demonstrated that the children talked more to their mothers than to strangers, and more given high adult attention than low adult attention. These findings have important implications for clinical language sampling and therapy procedures.

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