Noun phrase elaboration in children's spoken stories

Sarita L. Eisenberg, Teresa A. Ukrainetz, Jennifer R. Hsu, Joan N. Kaderavek, Laura M. Justice, Ronald B. Gillam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Purpose: One feature of literate language, noun phrase elaboration, was examined in the oral fictional narratives of school-aged children. Method: Two narratives were elicited from 5-, 8- and 11-year-old children, 1 in response to a picture sequence and 1 in response to a single picture. Noun phrases were categorized into 4 types. Results: Simple designating noun phrases were produced by all children at age 5, simple descriptive noun phrases by all children at age 8, and noun phrases with postmodification by all children at age 11. All noun phrase types were produced by more children in object than in subject position and in the single picture than in the picture sequence context. Conclusion: There are important developmental changes in noun phrase elaboration in the elementary school years as children learn to manage narrative contexts. Even within picture tasks, variations in visual depiction can affect the use of elaborated noun phrases (ENPs), with more descriptive language more likely to occur in narratives based on a single picture fantasy context than on a realistic picture sequence context. Performance expectations for types of ENPs within these contexts are provided. These findings will be useful to school clinicians in evaluating and working on narrative language within the elementary school period.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-157
Number of pages13
JournalLanguage, speech, and hearing services in schools
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2008


  • Language assessment
  • Literate language
  • Narrative
  • Syntax


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