24.2071, Review: Psycholinguistics: Ball, Crystal, Fletcher (eds.) (2012)

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LINGUIST List: Vol-24-2071. Wed May 15 2013. ISSN: 1069 - 4875.

Subject: 24.2071, Review: Psycholinguistics: Ball, Crystal, Fletcher (eds.) (2012)

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Date: Wed, 15 May 2013 15:51:43
From: Leah Paltiel-Gedalyovich [leah.gedalyovich at gmail.com]
Subject: Assessing Grammar

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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/23/23-1308.html

EDITOR: Martin J. Ball
EDITOR: David  Crystal
EDITOR: Paul  Fletcher
TITLE: Assessing Grammar
SUBTITLE: The Languages of LARSP
SERIES TITLE: Communication Disorders Across Languages
PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters
YEAR: 2012

REVIEWER: Leah R. Paltiel-Gedalyovich, Hedim Institutes of Audiology, Ltd


In Martin J. Ball’s introduction he describes the purposes of this volume as
including 1) composing a source book for clinicians working with various
languages for which versions of the Language Assessment Remediation and
Screening Procedure (LARSP) exist and 2) introducing new versions of LARSP for
languages which had not yet had LARSP adapted to them. The chapters of the
volume are of a (loosely) uniform format including: a description of the
target language and acquisition of the target language grammar, information on
the database used to develop the LARSP charts which plot grammatical
acquisition, and the charts themselves. Differences between the charts result
from cross-linguistic differences in grammar as well as from methodological
issues. The volume reflects the cross-linguistic history of LARSP while
clearly indicating that this history is not complete as LARSP continues to be
modified and adapted to new languages.

Chapter 1: On the origin of LARSPecies (David Crystal)

This chapter begins with a history of the motivation for the original LARSP.
LARSP came into being in an environment where speech-language clinicians had
little or no training in child language development or in grammar. LARSP
presented a structured way to view children’s grammatical typical and atypical
performance and a way to plan remediation goals. Crystal argues that “grammar
is the key to understanding language disability” (p. 6), despite the frequent
(co-)occurrence of impaired vocabulary skills. The LARSP chart concentrated on
development up to age 5. Although grammatical development certainly continues
after this age, the rationale was that the majority of children seeking
intervention would be functioning within this age range.

Practical considerations guided the development of a chart that would fit on a
single page and be applicable given caseload and time constraints of
clinicians. The tool aimed to cover four areas: screening, assessment,
diagnosis and therapy. The organization of the chart allowed the clinician to
refrain from analyzing problematic (and often unanalyzable) utterances. The
final version of the chart included four sections: A. Time saving, B.
Interaction, C. Types of sentence structure and function (seven stages of
grammatical acquisition), and D. Summary. The chart aims to improve control
and monitor treatment efficacy.

Chapter 2: LARSP thirty years on (Paul Fletcher, Thomas Klee and William

This chapter looks at implications of developmental variability, the gradual
nature of development, and grammatical ‘faultlines’ in the clinical
application of LARSP.

Studies using the LARSP found stability in the order of development but
variability in the ages of acquisition of various structures. The gradual
nature of acquisition is seen in the use of certain structures with limited
vocabulary in early stages and more productive use emerging with increased

The authors report data suggesting that an upwards revision of the ages of the
various stages of the original LARSP based on developmental research would be
appropriate for the stages up to Stage 5 (3 years).

The authors further point out that although linguistic theory has undergone
many changes in the past thirty years, since LARSP provides a comprehensive
description of the grammar that a child needs to acquire, and allows the
mapping of where s/he stands in terms of the acquisition of these grammatical
structures, LARSP remains a relevant and appropriate clinical (and research)

Chapter 3: ‘Computerized Profiling’ of Clinical Language Samples and the Issue
of Time (Steven Long)

In this chapter, Long deals with practical considerations in the clinical
application of LARSP. Specifically, the linguistic knowledge required to use
the LARSP profile is great and often not mastered by clinicians. Also, the
time required to profile may be so great as to be prohibitive in many clinical
settings. The computerized profile aims to support clinical knowledge and
perform non ‘expert’ tasks such as quantification of results and search

LARSP analysis involves creating a transcript file in the CORPUS module and
then a tentative parse of each sentence is provided by the LARSP module. The
parse must be checked manually. The program works hierarchically from clause
to word structure. Incorrect parsings at higher levels affect lower levels but
once these are changed manually the subsequent levels are automatically
adjusted. The program assigns the structures to the appropriate stages and
these are then quantified. A chart identical to the manual chart is generated.
In a study comparing manual and computerized profiling, computerized profiling
was found to be more accurate and significantly faster. Computerized analysis
can cut the time needed significantly so that even the most complex sample in
this study was analyzed in under an hour. Even so the procedure is still
relatively time consuming. The justification for its use comes from the
clinical benefits of a comprehensive profile of a child’s grammatical

Chapter 4: HARSP: A developmental Language Profile for Hebrew (Ruth A. Berman
and Lyle Lustigman)

This is the first chapter of the volume dealing with applications of the LARSP
methodology to languages other than English. The chapter begins with an
account of the database, which served as the material for the original HARSP
(Hebrew Assessment, Remediation and Screening Procedure) analyses. The final
database included cross-sectional data from 100 children aged 1;0-5;11 and
longitudinal data from four more children aged 1;3-3;6.  In addition the ages
specified in the revised HARSP take into account developmental Hebrew language
research. The version of the HARSP presented in this volume is considerably
changed from an original draft version developed by Berman, Rom and Hirsch

The chapter continues with an outline of Hebrew grammar. The most obvious
feature of Hebrew grammar which differs significantly from English is the rich
morphology which affects verb, noun and adjective systems and results in
complex agreement. Word order in Hebrew is mainly subject initial, except for
existential, possessive and VS constructions. It is also flexible.

The HARSP chart follows the English version for its first four sections, which
deal with ‘Types of Utterances’. The ‘Grammatical Analyses’ section has been
adapted to suit Hebrew grammar. Six stages of language development are
described from 0;9-4;0. The ages correspond to the LARSP ages. The HARSP
differs from LARSP in that instead of a deviant category and the Stage 6 error
box, an error line allows recording of errors at each of the stages 3-6. For
Stages 1-2, utterances are analyzed at clause, phrase and word levels. For
Stages 3-6 utterances are also analyzed for connectivity. Utterances are
considered grammatical if they occur in adult colloquial Hebrew, regardless of
their grammaticality in prescriptive terms. Errors are only marked if the
child also demonstrates adult usage of the structure.

Chapter 5: Profiling linguistic disability in German-speaking children (Harald
Clahsen and Detlef Hansen)

The LARSP was adapted to German in 1986 and COPROF, a computer-assisted
analysis was published in 1991. The German version follows the LARSP procedure
with several differences. Five developmental stages are described. The authors
discuss the oral language sample itself, emphasizing the importance of
collecting a spontaneous speech sample, and supplementing, but not relying
solely on, elicited productions.

A summary of the German linguistic phenomena analyzed is given. The areas
addressed by the chart include word and constituent structure, inflectional
morphology and sentence structure. This section deals with the word order and
combination of major constituents within a sentence. Word/phrase structure
analysis includes nominal, adverbial and verbal elements, coordinating and
subordinating conjunctions and case markings. The developmental ages suggested
in the analysis are based on empirical studies of children acquiring German as
their first language.   After the general discussion of the chart, an
illustrative case profile is presented.

The great amount of time required to complete a comprehensive analysis of a
language sample has restricted clinical application of the COPROF. Attempts at
shortcuts result in profiles that may provide screening but do not result in
specific treatment goals. The computer-assisted profiling program is available
at no cost, but even with the time saved with this, the authors point out that
clinical feasibility of the tool is limited.

Chapter 6. GRAMAT: A Dutch adaptation of LARSP (Gerard W. Bol)

The Dutch version of LARSP resulted from an MA thesis and later doctoral
dissertation by Bol and Kuiken (1988). The data for the original chart was
based on data collected on 12 children at each 6 month interval between the
ages of 1;0 and 4;0. Six stages of development were described.

The first four sections of the original LARSP chart are represented in two
sections in the GRAMAT chart. Mean Length of Utterance (MLU) for the entire
sample and also MLU of the five longest utterances are noted.  The criterion
for including a structure at a given stage was having that structure appear in
utterances of 50% of the children at that age. Frequency charts for the
structures of the chart are given. Diagnosis is based on the pattern of
frequencies the child displays. Treatment goals relate to structures appearing
above 75% or below 25%.

The use of the chart with a language disordered child is used as illustration.
The child’s performance is compared to that of typically developing children
of the same MLU. Their stage is determined by this measure and then the
frequencies of their structures at this stage are compared to the frequencies
for these structures of typically developing children, with structures below
the 25th percentile and above the 75th percentile targets for therapy. In
addition all structures are mapped on a complete chart.  Therapy goals involve
moving the child through the stages for those structure areas where there is
infrequent use of structures.

Chapter 7: LLARSP: A grammatical profile for Welsh (Martin J. Ball and Enli
Môn Thomas)

This chapter begins with a survey of bilingual Welsh-English acquisition in
Wales. Great differences are found in the age of acquisition of various Welsh
structures depending on the degree of exposure and use.

A review of some structures of Welsh grammar is given including gender
assignment to nouns, adjective gender agreement and modification. Marking of
gender in distant elements is variable even in adult speakers. Profiling soft
mutation and plural morphology may be useful in diagnosing deviant language.

The greatest difficulty in the development of LLARSP was lack of developmental
data. Removing ages of development makes the chart applicable to children from
varied linguistic backgrounds. Language universals are good candidates for the
profile in the absence of detailed language specific data.

Three charts result from the application of LARSP to Welsh: syntax (LLARSP-C),
morphology (LLARSP-M) and mutations (LLARSP-T).

LLARSP-C: The LLARSP-C mirrors the LARSP up to Stage I, except for Section A
which records code-switching. Different levels of code-switching are noted.
Stages II-IV include changes related to differences between Welsh and English,
including word-order differences. Transfer stages are retained. Stages V-VI
are very similar to English. The chart is geared to spoken Welsh and
structures which appear primarily in written Welsh are ignored.

LLARSP-M profiles the verb phrase, noun phrase, and prepositional and
adjectival morphology. A summary includes a type:token ratio of types of
morphemes and types of errors.

LLARSP-T profiles initial consonant mutations, three types of phonological
change which are syntactically motivated. Errors are difficult to describe
because of sociolinguistic and dialect differences but the profiler can adjust
the profile accordingly.

The point is raised that the chart should possibly be in Welsh. 

Chapter 8: An investigation of syntax in children of Bengali
(Sylheti)-speaking families (Jane Stokes)

The Sylheti database was collected in the 1980’s and includes 30 children aged
1;6-4;0 years. As well as the syntactic analysis, MLU was calculated.

A short survey of Bengali is given.  Bengali is the written version and
Sylheti is the oral, rather different version. Basic word order is SOV. Verbal
morphology is rich.  Changes made to the chart to accommodate Bengali included
changes in clause and phrase constituent order. At word level morphology was
expanded to suit Bengali.  At the two and three word levels similar categories
to LARSP were used, but the stages were not preserved.

A strong correlation was found between age and MLU so ‘key features’ were
described for MLU groups. The list of key features for a certain group
included structures of varying length. At each stage negated utterances were
the first long utterances to appear. Lexical differences in the utterances of
the same length at each level are noted.

The author suggests that LARSP was the basis of a first framework for
describing Bengali syntactic development, although the result of this
description was not actually a Bengali version of LARSP.

Chapter 9. ILARSP: A grammatical profile of Irish (Tina Hickey)

The database comes from four typically developing, Irish speaking children
ages 1;4-3;6.  An outline of Irish grammar is provided. Irish is a VSX
language, where the verb precedes the subject which is then followed by the
remaining parts of the sentence. Phonological mutations are morphologically
motivated. Age ranges are not discussed because of the limited sample. A main
difference is the separate ‘Negative’ column. Transfer stages are preserved.
Here, too, a code-switching section is included. Subscripts and superscripts
and combinations are used to mark expansions unique to Irish. Allophonic
mutations are also noted here. Mutation errors are noted separately.

Chapter 10: Persian: Devising the P-LARSP (Habibeh Samadi and Mick Perkins)

The data comes from the language of three children studied longitudinally. The
ages covered are 1;8-3;4. A brief outline of Persian is provided. It is a
pro-drop verb final language. Word order differs from English. Persian also
differs from English as it has rich inflection. The analysis of inflection is
related to the phrase level analysis. Transitional stages of LARSP are
maintained as are the first four sections of the profile, as the authors
consider these to be non-language specific.

Due to lack of data, ages are not assigned to the various stages. Generally,
structures are assigned to the different stages based on number of
constituents.  Word level is depicted similarly to how it is done on the
English chart, but inflections include nouns and verbs as well as aspectual

Chapter 11: Frisian TARSP. Based on the methodology of the Dutch TARSP (Jelske
Dijkstra and Liesbeth Schlichting)

Frisian is a minority language spoken in the Netherlands. Most of its speakers
also speak Dutch. The chart parallels the previous version of a Dutch chart. A
survey of Frisian grammar is given. Word order differs from English and there
is a richer inflectional system.

The database consisted of samples from 100 children aged 1;9-4;2. The children
were divided into groups by 6 month age intervals, covering 2 SES levels and
both sexes. The children came mainly from Frisian speaking families.

Up to three main clauses could be included in one utterance, with their
accompanying subordinate clauses. Developmental stages are determined by number of
constituents while questions and commands have fewer constituents than
statements. Language samples were indexed on the basis of the longest
utterance (maximum number of clause elements).

Sections B and D of the chart have been excluded since the authors claim that
these are not usually used clinically.

The chart includes the original sentence level columns. The other columns are
connectivity, phrase, pronoun and word. Pronouns were included due to
clinician demand. Within each stage the order of the structures represents the
relative frequency of production. By counting the number of structures a
quantitative score is achieved.

A Frisian language version of the chart is also provided. 

Chapter 12: C-LARSP: Developing a Chinese grammatical profile (Lixian Jin, Bee
Lim Oh and Rogayah A. Razak)

There is a current lack of (linguistically and socially) appropriate
assessment tools for Chinese. Lack of developmental data and lack of agreement
on Chinese grammar are obstacles.

The database comes from Mandarin children speaking Chinese in Malaysia. There
were 130 children, aged 1;0-6;, speaking Mandarin as the dominant home
language. Data included: free conversation, story-(re)telling + self generated
narratives for children over 4 yrs.

A (partial) survey of Mandarin grammar is given. Terms are used from LARSP
(clause, phrase and word levels) and an effort is made to use terms common to
Chinese speakers. Chinese sentences can be classified as in English
(statement, question, command, and exclamation). In addition they can be
classified as Subject-Predicate or Non-Subject-Predicate. For
Subject-Predicate sentences, if the subject is omitted it can be recovered
from the context.  For Non-Subject-Predicate, this is not possible.  A further
distinction is made between single clause sentences and double/multiple clause
sentences. Clause and phrase level elements are similar to English. Word-level
elements are bound morphemes.

In the C-LARSP the basic structures are the same as LARSP but there is less
adherence to the number of structures at each stage.

The chart does not deal with bilingual issues. 

Chapter 13: F-LARSP: A computerized tool for measuring morphosyntactic
abilities in French (Christophe Parisse, Christelle Maillart and Jodi

A description of French morphosyntax is given. French has basic SVO order, and
no null subjects except for imperatives (which need an impersonal subject).
There is moderate inflection for person, gender, and number; and inflection
for nouns, verbs and adjectives. Verbal tense is explicit with different
morphology for past events.

The adaptation of the LARSP involved omission of English structures not
present in French and identification of French specific target structures
(e.g. dislocations).  The software was developed based on CLAN (Computerized
Language Analysis, MacWhinney, 2000): possible parts of speech analyses are
suggested and the best candidate is chosen based on statistical information.
Recursively elements are grouped by the program and then the output requires
manual correction. The final stage is a print-out summarizing results on a
chart. The authors found difficulty with coding later stages.

The database consisted of 36 recordings, each 20 minutes long, of children
aged 2;0-4;0. Structures were assigned to a stage when they occurred for 50%
of the children at that age. A chart of the analysis is provided. Accuracy
checks compared the computer and hand analyses. The software had difficulty
with stages from Stage V and on.

Chapter 14: Spanish acquisition and the development of PERSL (Ana Isabel
Codesido-García, Carmen Julia Coloma, Elena Garayzăbal-Heinze, Victoria
Marrero, Elvira Mendoza and Ma Mercedes Pavez)

This chapter starts with a summary of Spanish grammar. Although SVO is the
most common order, various word orders are acceptable. Spanish has a rich
inflectional system. There are ‘variable’ elements which change for number,
gender, conjugation, time, mood, aspect, voice and form, while ‘invariable’
elements (adverbs, conjunctions, prepositions and interjections) do not
change. Gender and number agreement exists between determiners and adjectives
and nouns. Possible clause and phrase structures are given. Specific predicted
difficulties for children acquiring Spanish include: pronouns, det-N
agreement, irregular verbs and complex sentences.

This is a (preliminary) adaptation of the LARSP with expanded word-level
analysis and selection of structures appropriate for Spanish.

The database used is the CHILDES Spanish corpus (MacWhinney, 1995). The latest
stage was modified based on a further corpus of Chilean Spanish, collected for
ten children aged 5-6 years. The most frequent structures used by children in
the corpus are listed. Charts of the relative frequency of the various
structures are provided. Word level development is only noted in Stage VI.

Chapter 15: LARSP for Turkish (TR-LARSP) (Seyhun Topbaş, Özlem Cangökçe-Yaşar
and Martin J. Ball)

The database for Turkish was based on 70 children, aged 0;9-3;6. 

An outline of Turkish grammar is given. Turkish is described as an
agglutinative language, primarily suffixing. Derivational and inflectional
morphology is rich. There is flexible word order. Branching is to the left of
the head.

For the TR_LARSP (Turkish LARSP), Sections A-D are maintained. There is a
separate word-level chart and LARSP Stage I is divided into 2 levels. In
describing clause level structures, scoring takes into account that verbal
inflection marks subordination. Word-level derivations and inflections are
complex as vowel harmony results in variation in these affixes.


This volume achieves its goals of being both a source book for clinicians
working in various languages and introducing new adaptations of LARSP.
Although initial chapters relate to the history of LARSP, there is no overview
of the original LARSP chart and I felt that in reading it, a familiarity with
the original LARSP is assumed.

Considering that this volume contains fifteen chapters by different authors,
it retains coherency, largely because of the closeness of the topics covered
and preservation of several main areas of discussion: a grammatical survey,
database and the adapted chart itself. There is some variety in the formatting
and order of presentation of these areas in different chapters and I found it
easiest to follow those chapters where the three areas were clearly separated.

The short surveys of the grammars of the various languages presented vary in
detail and complexity. Although this is not a primary goal of this volume,
they serve to give the reader a brief glimpse of grammatical diversity.

This volume reports the adaptation (as opposed to translation) of LARSP to
twelve different languages from different language families. The emphasis on
adaptation suggests great differences in language acquisition
cross-linguistically. Yet, the adaptability of the LARSP to the various
languages, and the ultimate similarity of the various charts in their overall
structure, highlight the universal pattern of first language acquisition.
Differences are primarily in details and not in the general pattern.

Some of the charts retain ages while other do not. This is largely based on
the size of the relevant database. One of the issues that arises is the choice
of structures to be included at each age, especially considering that many
early structures are grammatical and continue to be used at later stages and
even through to adulthood. The criteria chosen were usually related to the
percent of children using the structure at a given age/stage or the frequency
of occurrence of the structure. These criteria are related to the more general
issue in language acquisition as to what constitutes acquisition of a
grammatical structure.

Three of the chapters (3, 5 and 13) discuss computerization of the profiling
process for English, German and French, respectively.  The clinical advantages
of computerization in terms of time savings are great, while not detracting
from clinician knowledge and involvement in the assessment process.

Clinical examples are included for Dutch (chapter 6) and German (chapter 5),
while for some other languages the development and use of the charts is in
earlier stages and wide-spread clinical use is not yet a reality.

Steven Long (chapter 2) suggests that LARSP is still relevant thirty years on.
The chapters in this volume support that argument, showing how a detailed and
organized description of developing grammar can lead to better understanding
of normative grammatical acquisition as well as identify atypical development
and indicate appropriate treatment goals. Improved clinician training to
facilitate knowledge of morphosyntax in the target language, greater knowledge
of normative developmental patterns and computerization (programs being freely
downloadable) aid in promoting LARSP and its multi-linguistic adaptations as
important and efficient clinical tools.


Bol, G.W. and Kuiken, F. (1988) Grammaticale Analyse van Taalonwikkelings
stoornissen. Dissertation: University of Amsterdam.

Berman, R.A., Rom, A. and Hirsch, M. (1982) Working with HARSP: Hebrew
adaptation of the LARSP Language Assessment Remediation and Screening
Procedure. Ms., Tel Aviv University.

MacWhinney, B. (2000) The CHILDES Project: Tools for Analyzing Talk. Third
Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

MacWhinney, B. (1995) The CHILDES Project: Computational Tools for Analyzing
Talk (2nd edn.). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.


Leah R. Paltiel-Gedalyovich is a practicing speech-language pathologist who
combines clinical work with clinical linguistic research as part of a team.
Currently this research involves developing a comprehensive battery of
developmental language tests for Hebrew including a test of narrative where
the morphosyntactic analysis is based on the Hebrew version of LARSP.

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