University of Edinburgh
 

Introduction to STASS: assessment of language skills

presented on 19 March 2008

Overview

What is STASS?

  • a set of pictures to elicit a range of grammatical structures.
  • normed on 300 hearing children aged within 2 weeks of 3, 4 and 5 from South Tyneside.
  • a tool to help the ToD decide what to focus on next and why.

child using stass

Starting at phrase level

Noun Phrase (NP) has a head noun and usually words in front of it:

the old lady
my eccentric aunt
that old lady who lives over the road

Sometimes the head noun is also post-modified.

The Verb Phrase

The Verb Phrase (VP) has a main verb and often auxiliary verbs in front of it:

walks
is walking
should have been walking
can’t have walked

Prepositional phrase

Prepositions tell you where, how, when: eg; in, on, next to, for, from, to, after…

Prep + NP
in the red box
after the honeymoon
along the road

Making clauses from phrases
Look at the role of the NP, VP and PP

The old lady is walking along the road
NP VP PP
Subject Verb Adverbial
Who / what? Action Answers Wh-Q

Now you try
The two old friends / arrived / the day before yesterday.

How many Noun Phrases can you see?
How can you recognise them?
How many words does the VP have?

The two old friends arrived the day before yesterday
NP VP NP

The phrase boundaries show you the clause elements.

SV
Subject Verb

The tall oak tree grew.
Aunt Fiona has arrived.

Find the phrase boundaries.
Those are the clause elements.

The tall oak tree grew               
S V
Aunt Fiona   has arrived
S V

SVO
Subject Verb Object

The family were eating their evening meal.

Find the phrase boundaries.
Find the object: What were they eating?

The family were eating their evening meal
S V O

SVA
Subject Verb Adverbial

I have been waiting for an hour.

Find the phrase boundaries.
Find the adverbial: how long? when?
where? Look for the preposition phrase.

I have been waiting for an hour
S V A

SVC
Subject Verb Complement

My sister is amazing.

Find the phrase boundaries.
Look for an adjective or Adjective Phrase.

My sister is amazing
S V C

SVO or SVC?
He / ate / six cakes. SVO

He / is / my cousin. SVC

Try the adjective test:
You can always put an adjective instead of C. You can't put an adjective instead of O.

* He / ate / happy. Can't be SVC

He / is / happy. SVC

Use the adjective test!

Clause patterns in English
V Stop!
SV The boat / sank.
SVO My friend / rang / the doctor.
SVC She / 's / really sweet!
SVCA He / saw / himself / in the mirror.
SVA I / 'll come back / later.
SVOA Lauren / threw / the ball / to Dave.
SVAA They / walked / quickly / away.
SVOO Lauren / threw / Dave / the ball.
SVOC They / named / the baby / George.

Now you try:

I can't believe it!
The old man lay moaning in the gutter.
The young girl jumped.
She washed herself in the stream.
Santa gave the girl a present.

I / can't believe / it! SVO
The old man / lay moaning / in the gutter. SVA
The young girl / jumped. SV
She / washed / herself in the stream. SVCA
Santa / gave / the girl / a present. SVOO

Congratulations!
You can now do clause level analysis.

Next we are going back to the phrases.

Phrases and word classes

N Noun: cat London
V Verb: ride cut
Aux Auxiliary Verb: is have can

Ewan is running the London marathon.

Ewan is running the London marathon
N Aux V Aux V
S V O

Adj Adjective: tall, happy
Adv Adverb: quietly, very
D Determiner: the / a / my / this

Craig is a very positive person.

Craig is a very positive person
N V D Adv Adj N
S V C

Cop Copula: is, seem, tastes

SVC clause structures

I am happy.
This cake tastes delicious.
He is a policeman.

VPart Verb + Particle or Phrasal verb: turn up, run into, turn down, come upon
Idiomatic meanings

Int Intensifier: really, actually, terribly, very
A subgroup of adverbs

Pron Pronouns: I, you, she, he, they Subject position
me, her, him, them Object position
who, which, that, when

Sharon is a psychologist. Cop

She ran up a really huge bill at B&Q.
Pron Vpart Int

Prep Preposition: in, of, above, by, with, to, from, near, next to, behind….