Date of Award

Spring 2015

Project Type


Program or Major

Communication Sciences and Disorders

Degree Name

Master of Science

First Advisor

Penelope E Webster

Second Advisor

Amy S Plante

Third Advisor

Rae M Sonnenmeier


Caregivers interacting with young children in natural settings have been found to provide language input that is in tune with the child's output in terms of mean length of utterance (MLU). Previous research suggests that caregivers provide language input within the child's proximal zone of language development, that is 2.0-3.0 morphemes ahead of their child's MLU. The purpose of this exploratory study was to investigate whether speech-language pathologists (SLP) working in early intervention tailor their input in the same way.

Communication interactions between six speech-language pathologists and their toddler aged clients between the ages of 28 and 33 months were audio recorded during one of their regularly scheduled speech and language intervention sessions. MLUs for the SLPs and the children were calculated for each intervention dyad via the Systematic Analysis of Language Transcripts (SALT) version 2012 computer software program. The MLU of each SLP was then compared to the MLU of her client. Data analysis revealed that three of the six SLPs directed their language input to the child at levels within the child's proximal zone of language development, between 2.0 and 3.0 morphemes greater than the child's MLU. The other three SLPs provided input at levels that exceeded the 2.0 to 3.0 morpheme range. Qualitative analysis suggest that factors other than the children's MLUs, such as their language comprehension levels, may have been a factor in the complexity levels of the SLPs input. Future research, employing larger sample sizes and careful measures of the children's language comprehension and cognitive levels, is indicated.