Communicative Disorders

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The purpose of this investigation was to examine the effect of linguistic complexity on the speech of normally fluent preschoolers. Participants were 4 normally fluent children between the ages of 4; 2 and 4; 11 (years;months). Bernstein-Ratner and Sih (1987) was replicated and extended. The participants were encouraged to imitate a total of 136 utterances, or 34 utterances embedded in four different story contexts. These 136 utterances represented ten different levels of complexity from simple active affirmative declarative up to center-embedded relative clause types of sentences. After all utterances were imitated, the child was then asked to retell the most recent story to their mother to examine the type of disfluency elicited. Each of ten utterance types, ranging in linguistic complexity, was analyzed on the average number of sentence errors and on the types and frequencies of disfluencies based on complexity. Rand-order correlations found significant relationships between the increasing complexity of an utterance and the production of an error (r=.879, p=.00) and when it was correlated with the number of other disfluencies (r=.714, p=.01) and total disfluency (r=.62, p=.028). Findings support the hypothesis that the production of disfluencies increases as utterance complexity increases.