A comparison of the responses to three comprehension and three production tasks assessing the morpho-syntactic abilities of Afrikaans-speaking preschoolers
AbstractThe lack of standardised assessment instruments for assessing the morpho-syntactic abilities of Afrikaans-speaking children often leads to the use of informal assessment tools and/or spontaneous language samples. The question that this paper addresses is how best to assess these morpho-syntactic abilities when using nonstandardised assessment instruments of this kind. The general aim of the present study was to answer this question. Eight typically developing, monolingual children (one boy and one girl of 3, 4, 5, and 6 years) from monolingual Afrikaans-speaking homes participated. Tasks were administered to assess comprehension and production of grammatical features related to number, person, case, and tense, as well as questions forms, binding relations and passive constructions. The comprehension tasks entailed picture selection, judging the (in)correctness of utterances produced by the researcher, and question answering, whereas the production tasks consisted of sentence completion, question asking and a language sample. A specific aim of the study was to determine which method(s) rendered the highest number of (i) correct responses and (ii) usable responses (i.e., responses strictly related to the aspect under assessment) by these typically developing participants. The results indicate that picture selection elicited the highest number of both correct and usable responses in the comprehension tasks. The production task that provided the highest number of both correct and usable responses was language sample elicitation. This suggests that these tasks should receive precedence when assessing the morpho-syntactic abilities of Afrikaans-speaking preschool children.
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