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Simplifying Language

When supporting children with language delays, it is important to model simplified language. Children naturally learn from the language of those around them. For children with language delays, research shows that simplifying the way we talk helps build a child’s receptive and expressive communication skills. Not only does simplified language help children better comprehend what we are saying, but it also encourages children to imitate what they hear. But just how simple are we talking? A 2017 American Speech-Language and Hearing Association Leader article summarizes the research.

What is simplified language?

Say you are playing with a toy farm at home. You want to tell your child “The little boy is walking to the farm to play with the animals.” There are two ways we can simplify this sentence to improve language comprehension and promote imitation. These two methods are known as grammatical simplified input and telegraphic input.

Grammatical Simplified Input: The boy is walking.

Telegraph Input: Boy walk.

With Grammatical Simplified Input, we simplify the sentence without modifying the rules of English grammar. With telegraphic input, we further simplify the sentence to omit word endings (e.g., walk/walking), articles (e.g., the), and other grammatical features. The chart below demonstrates how several different utterances would be produced with Grammatical Simplified Input and Telegraphic Input:

Current research suggests that Grammatical Simplified Input is associated with more positive language outcomes for children with a language delay. Reasons include:

  • Grammatical features of language may facilitate language processing by helping children anticipate upcoming words.

  • Exposure to simplified yet grammatically correct sentence forms promote grammar acquisition

  • Inclusion of appropriate word endings (e.g. The boy is walking vs. Boy walk) may help children better identify and use different classes of words (i.e., words ending in -ing are present progressive verbs).

Do you have questions about how to use Grammatical Simplified Input with your children? Our SLPs are happy to help! Call us at 781-239-0100.

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