Mothers' Use of Mental State Language in Children of Varying Language Abilities
Williams, Suzanne H.
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SUMMARY This study extended research on child-directed speech by exploring mothers’ use of mental state language during a shared book reading task with four-year-old children exhibiting a wide range of oral language abilities. Specific goals of this investigation sought to determine whether mothers’ use of mental state language was related to their children’s language ability, as measured by the Composite Language Quotient from the Test of Language Development-P: 2. Syntactic complexity of mothers’ utterances containing mental state language was assessed by mean length of utterance in words (termed MLU of MSL) as well as the Overall Frequency of mental state language of all categories, and the percentages of occurrence of four types of mental state language categories: Cognitive, Desire, Emotion, and Modulation of Assertion. Mothers’ references to the False Belief episode in the text were also assessed. Results revealed that mothers’ overall frequency of mental state language utterances as well as their syntactic complexity were both found to be correlated to their children’s semantic and syntactic skills. An examination of the different mental state language categories indicated Emotion and Modulation of Assertion terms were significantly and positively associated with children’s language abilities. These findings confirm that mothers’ language input is adapted to preschool children’s oral language abilities, and extends beyond syntactic complexity to include social-cognitive dimensions of speech addressed to children. Additionally, the attained results present important implications for future research on understanding how language input may best be adapted to facilitate children’s pragmatic and social cognitive development.
SubjectKeyword 1 phrase: mental state language
Keyword 2 phrase: child-directed speech
Keyword 3: children's language ability
Keyword 4: mean length of utterance
Keyword phrase 5: mental state language category
Keyword phrase 6: social-cognitive
Date available in INDIGO2016-07-01T22:53:19Z
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