Sentence Diversity

Sentence diversity refers to the number of different subject-verb combinations children say. Early child-like sentences have I-subjects and are about what the child wants or has. Later sentences are about objects or other people, appearing first with pronoun subjects and then with noun subjects. Sentence diversity is assessed from spontaneous language samples and is used to estimate the strength of children’s knowledge of sentence structure.

Pronoun Subjects
Noun Subjects
I want juice.
That fall.
Tower fall.
I need help.It go in. Ball go in.
I got cookies.Her sleeping.Baby sleeping.

Early Sentences — A Big Step in Language Development (Lauren Lowry, The Hanen Centre)

This article, written for parents, provides examples of word combinations and child-like sentences, and explains why the transition to child-like sentences is important. The article also describes when children should say simple sentences, based on research from the APL, and when parents may want to talk to a doctor or speech-language pathologist if they are concerned about their child’s sentence development.

How to Help Your Child Use Early Sentences (Lauren Lowry, The Hanen Centre)

This article, written for parents, describes strategies that can be used to help children start saying a variety of child-like sentences.

Computing Sentence Diversity (Pamela Hadley, Megan McKenna, & Matthew Rispoli)

This supplemental resource, designed for speech-language pathologists, provides instructions for gathering a language sample and computing the measure of sentence diversity. The resource includes step-by-step instructions, an example, and a blank worksheet for analyzing sentence diversity by hand.

For more information on sentence diversity, see 

McKenna, M., & Hadley, P. (2014). Assessing sentence diversity in toddlers at-risk for language impairment. SIG 1 Perspectives on Language Learning and Education, 21, 159-172.

Hadley, P., McKenna, M., & Rispoli, M. (2018). Sentence diversity in early language development: Recommendations for target selection and progress monitoring. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 27, 553-565.