LINGUIST List 24.2071

Wed May 15 2013

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

Editor for this issue: Monica Macaulay <>

Date: 15-May-2013
From: Leah Paltiel-Gedalyovich <>
Subject: Assessing Grammar
E-mail this message to a friend

Discuss this message

Book announced at

EDITOR: Martin J. BallEDITOR: David CrystalEDITOR: Paul FletcherTITLE: Assessing GrammarSUBTITLE: The Languages of LARSPSERIES TITLE: Communication Disorders Across LanguagesPUBLISHER: Multilingual MattersYEAR: 2012

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


In Martin J. Ball’s introduction he describes the purposes of this volume asincluding 1) composing a source book for clinicians working with variouslanguages for which versions of the Language Assessment Remediation andScreening Procedure (LARSP) exist and 2) introducing new versions of LARSP forlanguages which had not yet had LARSP adapted to them. The chapters of thevolume are of a (loosely) uniform format including: a description of thetarget language and acquisition of the target language grammar, information onthe database used to develop the LARSP charts which plot grammaticalacquisition, and the charts themselves. Differences between the charts resultfrom cross-linguistic differences in grammar as well as from methodologicalissues. The volume reflects the cross-linguistic history of LARSP whileclearly indicating that this history is not complete as LARSP continues to bemodified 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 hadlittle or no training in child language development or in grammar. LARSPpresented a structured way to view children’s grammatical typical and atypicalperformance and a way to plan remediation goals. Crystal argues that “grammaris the key to understanding language disability” (p. 6), despite the frequent(co-)occurrence of impaired vocabulary skills. The LARSP chart concentrated ondevelopment up to age 5. Although grammatical development certainly continuesafter this age, the rationale was that the majority of children seekingintervention would be functioning within this age range.

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

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

This chapter looks at implications of developmental variability, the gradualnature of development, and grammatical ‘faultlines’ in the clinicalapplication of LARSP.

Studies using the LARSP found stability in the order of development butvariability in the ages of acquisition of various structures. The gradualnature of acquisition is seen in the use of certain structures with limitedvocabulary in early stages and more productive use emerging with increasedage.

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

The authors further point out that although linguistic theory has undergonemany changes in the past thirty years, since LARSP provides a comprehensivedescription of the grammar that a child needs to acquire, and allows themapping of where s/he stands in terms of the acquisition of these grammaticalstructures, LARSP remains a relevant and appropriate clinical (and research)tool.

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

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

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

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

This is the first chapter of the volume dealing with applications of the LARSPmethodology to languages other than English. The chapter begins with anaccount of the database, which served as the material for the original HARSP(Hebrew Assessment, Remediation and Screening Procedure) analyses. The finaldatabase included cross-sectional data from 100 children aged 1;0-5;11 andlongitudinal data from four more children aged 1;3-3;6. In addition the agesspecified in the revised HARSP take into account developmental Hebrew languageresearch. The version of the HARSP presented in this volume is considerablychanged from an original draft version developed by Berman, Rom and Hirsch(1982).

The chapter continues with an outline of Hebrew grammar. The most obviousfeature of Hebrew grammar which differs significantly from English is the richmorphology which affects verb, noun and adjective systems and results incomplex agreement. Word order in Hebrew is mainly subject initial, except forexistential, possessive and VS constructions. It is also flexible.

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

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

The LARSP was adapted to German in 1986 and COPROF, a computer-assistedanalysis was published in 1991. The German version follows the LARSP procedurewith several differences. Five developmental stages are described. The authorsdiscuss the oral language sample itself, emphasizing the importance ofcollecting a spontaneous speech sample, and supplementing, but not relyingsolely on, elicited productions.

A summary of the German linguistic phenomena analyzed is given. The areasaddressed by the chart include word and constituent structure, inflectionalmorphology and sentence structure. This section deals with the word order andcombination of major constituents within a sentence. Word/phrase structureanalysis includes nominal, adverbial and verbal elements, coordinating andsubordinating conjunctions and case markings. The developmental ages suggestedin the analysis are based on empirical studies of children acquiring German astheir first language. After the general discussion of the chart, anillustrative case profile is presented.

The great amount of time required to complete a comprehensive analysis of alanguage sample has restricted clinical application of the COPROF. Attempts atshortcuts result in profiles that may provide screening but do not result inspecific treatment goals. The computer-assisted profiling program is availableat no cost, but even with the time saved with this, the authors point out thatclinical 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 doctoraldissertation by Bol and Kuiken (1988). The data for the original chart wasbased on data collected on 12 children at each 6 month interval between theages of 1;0 and 4;0. Six stages of development were described.

The first four sections of the original LARSP chart are represented in twosections in the GRAMAT chart. Mean Length of Utterance (MLU) for the entiresample and also MLU of the five longest utterances are noted. The criterionfor including a structure at a given stage was having that structure appear inutterances of 50% of the children at that age. Frequency charts for thestructures of the chart are given. Diagnosis is based on the pattern offrequencies the child displays. Treatment goals relate to structures appearingabove 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 childrenof the same MLU. Their stage is determined by this measure and then thefrequencies of their structures at this stage are compared to the frequenciesfor these structures of typically developing children, with structures belowthe 25th percentile and above the 75th percentile targets for therapy. Inaddition all structures are mapped on a complete chart. Therapy goals involvemoving the child through the stages for those structure areas where there isinfrequent use of structures.

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

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

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

The greatest difficulty in the development of LLARSP was lack of developmentaldata. Removing ages of development makes the chart applicable to children fromvaried linguistic backgrounds. Language universals are good candidates for theprofile 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 Awhich 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-VIare very similar to English. The chart is geared to spoken Welsh andstructures which appear primarily in written Welsh are ignored.

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

LLARSP-T profiles initial consonant mutations, three types of phonologicalchange which are syntactically motivated. Errors are difficult to describebecause of sociolinguistic and dialect differences but the profiler can adjustthe 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 aged1;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 andSylheti is the oral, rather different version. Basic word order is SOV. Verbalmorphology is rich. Changes made to the chart to accommodate Bengali includedchanges in clause and phrase constituent order. At word level morphology wasexpanded to suit Bengali. At the two and three word levels similar categoriesto LARSP were used, but the stages were not preserved.

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

The author suggests that LARSP was the basis of a first framework fordescribing Bengali syntactic development, although the result of thisdescription 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 childrenages 1;4-3;6. An outline of Irish grammar is provided. Irish is a VSXlanguage, where the verb precedes the subject which is then followed by theremaining parts of the sentence. Phonological mutations are morphologicallymotivated. Age ranges are not discussed because of the limited sample. A maindifference is the separate ‘Negative’ column. Transfer stages are preserved.Here, too, a code-switching section is included. Subscripts and superscriptsand combinations are used to mark expansions unique to Irish. Allophonicmutations 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. Theages covered are 1;8-3;4. A brief outline of Persian is provided. It is apro-drop verb final language. Word order differs from English. Persian alsodiffers from English as it has rich inflection. The analysis of inflection isrelated to the phrase level analysis. Transitional stages of LARSP aremaintained as are the first four sections of the profile, as the authorsconsider 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 ofconstituents. Word level is depicted similarly to how it is done on theEnglish chart, but inflections include nouns and verbs as well as aspectualinflections.

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

Frisian is a minority language spoken in the Netherlands. Most of its speakersalso speak Dutch. The chart parallels the previous version of a Dutch chart. Asurvey of Frisian grammar is given. Word order differs from English and thereis a richer inflectional system.

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

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

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

The chart includes the original sentence level columns. The other columns areconnectivity, phrase, pronoun and word. Pronouns were included due toclinician demand. Within each stage the order of the structures represents therelative frequency of production. By counting the number of structures aquantitative score is achieved.

A Frisian language version of the chart is also provided.

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

There is a current lack of (linguistically and socially) appropriateassessment tools for Chinese. Lack of developmental data and lack of agreementon Chinese grammar are obstacles.

The database comes from Mandarin children speaking Chinese in Malaysia. Therewere 130 children, aged 1;0-6;, speaking Mandarin as the dominant homelanguage. Data included: free conversation, story-(re)telling + self generatednarratives 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 toChinese speakers. Chinese sentences can be classified as in English(statement, question, command, and exclamation). In addition they can beclassified as Subject-Predicate or Non-Subject-Predicate. ForSubject-Predicate sentences, if the subject is omitted it can be recoveredfrom the context. For Non-Subject-Predicate, this is not possible. A furtherdistinction is made between single clause sentences and double/multiple clausesentences. Clause and phrase level elements are similar to English. Word-levelelements are bound morphemes.

In the C-LARSP the basic structures are the same as LARSP but there is lessadherence 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 morphosyntacticabilities in French (Christophe Parisse, Christelle Maillart and JodiTommerdahl)

A description of French morphosyntax is given. French has basic SVO order, andno null subjects except for imperatives (which need an impersonal subject).There is moderate inflection for person, gender, and number; and inflectionfor nouns, verbs and adjectives. Verbal tense is explicit with differentmorphology for past events.

The adaptation of the LARSP involved omission of English structures notpresent in French and identification of French specific target structures(e.g. dislocations). The software was developed based on CLAN (ComputerizedLanguage Analysis, MacWhinney, 2000): possible parts of speech analyses aresuggested and the best candidate is chosen based on statistical information.Recursively elements are grouped by the program and then the output requiresmanual correction. The final stage is a print-out summarizing results on achart. The authors found difficulty with coding later stages.

The database consisted of 36 recordings, each 20 minutes long, of childrenaged 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. Accuracychecks compared the computer and hand analyses. The software had difficultywith stages from Stage V and on.

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

This chapter starts with a summary of Spanish grammar. Although SVO is themost common order, various word orders are acceptable. Spanish has a richinflectional 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 notchange. Gender and number agreement exists between determiners and adjectivesand nouns. Possible clause and phrase structures are given. Specific predicteddifficulties for children acquiring Spanish include: pronouns, det-Nagreement, irregular verbs and complex sentences.

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

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

Chapter 15: LARSP for Turkish (TR-LARSP) (Seyhun Topbaş, Özlem Cangökçe-Yaşarand 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 anagglutinative language, primarily suffixing. Derivational and inflectionalmorphology is rich. There is flexible word order. Branching is to the left ofthe head.

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


This volume achieves its goals of being both a source book for cliniciansworking in various languages and introducing new adaptations of LARSP.Although initial chapters relate to the history of LARSP, there is no overviewof the original LARSP chart and I felt that in reading it, a familiarity withthe 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 coveredand preservation of several main areas of discussion: a grammatical survey,database and the adapted chart itself. There is some variety in the formattingand order of presentation of these areas in different chapters and I found iteasiest to follow those chapters where the three areas were clearly separated.

The short surveys of the grammars of the various languages presented vary indetail 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 totwelve different languages from different language families. The emphasis onadaptation suggests great differences in language acquisitioncross-linguistically. Yet, the adaptability of the LARSP to the variouslanguages, and the ultimate similarity of the various charts in their overallstructure, 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 onthe size of the relevant database. One of the issues that arises is the choiceof structures to be included at each age, especially considering that manyearly structures are grammatical and continue to be used at later stages andeven through to adulthood. The criteria chosen were usually related to thepercent of children using the structure at a given age/stage or the frequencyof occurrence of the structure. These criteria are related to the more generalissue in language acquisition as to what constitutes acquisition of agrammatical structure.

Three of the chapters (3, 5 and 13) discuss computerization of the profilingprocess for English, German and French, respectively. The clinical advantagesof computerization in terms of time savings are great, while not detractingfrom 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 inearlier 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 andorganized description of developing grammar can lead to better understandingof normative grammatical acquisition as well as identify atypical developmentand indicate appropriate treatment goals. Improved clinician training tofacilitate knowledge of morphosyntax in the target language, greater knowledgeof normative developmental patterns and computerization (programs being freelydownloadable) aid in promoting LARSP and its multi-linguistic adaptations asimportant and efficient clinical tools.


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

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

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

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


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

Page Updated: 15-May-2013