Sentence diversity in early language development: Recommendations for target selection and progress monitoring

Pamela Ann Hadley, Megan M. McKenna, Matthew Rispoli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: This clinical focus article describes how to assess and when to target diverse, simple sentences as part of early language intervention. Method: The theoretical foundations and clinical motivations for assessing sentence diversity based on unique combinations of subjects and verbs are explained, followed by a description of how to compute the measure. Sentence diversity is then related to familiar developmental measures of lexical diversity, utterance length, and grammatical complexity in a sample of 40 typically developing toddlers at 30 months of age. Descriptive and correlational analyses are used to demonstrate how sentences become more diverse as utterances also become longer and more complex. Conclusions: The ability to produce simple sentences with diverse subject–verb combinations is proposed as a general developmental expectation for toddlers at 30 months of age. All 40 children produced at least 10 different subject–verb combinations in 30 min of parent–toddler conversation. Sentence diversity is also associated with familiar developmental measures. Recommendations are provided for using the measure of sentence diversity to inform treatment planning and monitor progress for young children with language disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)553-565
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican journal of speech-language pathology
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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