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Utterance length, complexity, and errors (Castilla-Earls et al., 2021)

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journal contribution
posted on 24.11.2021, 22:19 by Anny Castilla-Earls, David J. Francis, Aquiles Iglesias
Purpose: This study examined the relationship between utterance length, syntactic complexity, and the probability of making an error at the utterance level.
Method: The participants in this study included 830 Spanish-speaking first graders who were learning English at school. Story retells in both Spanish and English were collected from all children. Generalized mixed linear models were used to examine within-child and between-children effects of utterance length and subordination on the probability of making an error at the utterance level.
Results: The relationship between utterance length and grammaticality was found to differ by error type (omission vs. commission), language (Spanish vs. English), and level of analysis (within-child vs. between-children). For errors of commission, the probability of making an error increased as a child produced utterances that were longer relative to their average utterance length (within-child effect). Contrastively, for errors of omission, the probability of making an error decreased when a child produced utterances that were longer relative to their average utterance length (within-child effect). In English, a child who produced utterances that were, on average, longer than the average utterance length for all children produced more errors of commission and fewer errors of omission (between-children effect). This between-children effect was similar in Spanish for errors of commission but nonsignificant for errors of omission. For both error types, the within-child effects of utterance length were moderated by the use of subordination.
Conclusion: The relationship between utterance length and grammaticality is complex and varies by error type, language, and whether the frame of reference is the child’s own language (within-child effect) or the language of other children (between-children effect).

Supplemental Material S1. Examples of errors of omission and errors of commission in Spanish and in English.

Castilla-Earls, A., Francis, D. J., & Iglesias, A. (2021). The complex role of utterance length on grammaticality: Multivariate multilevel analysis of English and Spanish utterances of first-grade English learners. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1044/2021_JSLHR-20-00464

Funding

Research reported in this publication was supported by National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders Award Number K23DC015835 granted to Anny Castilla-Earls, National Institute for Child Health and Human Development Award Number HD39521 granted to David Francis, and U.S. Department of Education Award Number R305U010001 granted to David Francis.

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