University of Edinburgh

Assessment of Comprehension and Expression (ACE)

Presented on Thursday, 26 April

Spoken language development over the Primary years

Rachel O'Neill

  • Syntax – grammar
  • Semantics – word and phrase meaning
  • Pragmatics – language in use
  • Other areas like Phonology we are not looking at today

Important textbook for syntax: Katharine Perera (1984) Children’s writing and reading

Syntax developments

  • Clause patterns
  • Noun phrase
  • Pronoun use
  • Verb phrase
  • Word structure
  • Negatives
  • Questions
  • Passives
  • Complex sentences
  • Adverbial clauses
  • Postmodifying (ACE) or relative clauses

Semantic developments

  • Key texts: Nation and Clark
  • Expanding the number of fields
  • Filling in the gaps
  • Saying the same thing different ways
  • Rate of vocabulary expansion
  • General knowledge and new word meaning
  • Coining new words
  • Extensive reading as a way of working out meaning of new words
  • Noun phrase tells us more about verb meanings
  • Different ways for deaf children?

Pragmatic developments

  • Inference
  • Non-literal comprehension
  • Co-ordination
  • Organising features in speech
  • Taking the listener's needs into account
  • Highlighting
  • Ellipsis


Biemiller, A & Boote, C (2006) An effective method for building meaning vocabulary in primary grades. Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol 98(1), Feb 2006, 44-62.  

Brown, G (1982) The spoken language. Ronald Carter (Ed) Linguistics and the Teacher. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.  

Clark, E (1995) Later lexical development and word formation. Paul Fletcher & Brian MacWhinney (Eds) The Handbook of Child Language, Oxford: Blackwell.  

Fletcher-Campbell, F, Soler, J & Reid, G (2009) Approaching difficulties in literacy development. Milton Keynes, SAGE publications.  

Gleitman, L & Gillette, J (1995) The role of syntax in verb learning. Paul Fletcher & Brian MacWhinney (Eds) The Handbook of Child Language, Oxford: Blackwell.  

Marschark, M & Hause, P (2012) How deaf children learn. Oxford: Oxford University Press  

McLaughlin, B (1984) Second language acquisition in childhood, Volume 1, pre-school children. 2nd edition New Jersey, Lawrence Erlbaum  

Nation, ISP (2001) Learning Vocabulary in another Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press  

Perera, K (1984) Children's writing and reading: analysing classroom language. Oxford: Blackwell    

Thanks Lovel, Maud, Miriam, Paige, Peter, Falkirk Council, Fife Council