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Applied Psycholinguistics



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This research investigated communicative intent in 31 toddlers who were slow to talk and 32 normally developing toddlers matched on SES, age, and nonverbal cognitive ability. Communicative intent was studied during free play, both with the mother and with an unfamiliar examiner. Late talkers had lower rates of communication, initiation, and joint attention, but when total communicativeness was controlled for, they were just as likely to initiate, respond, and maintain joint attention as were their peers. As expected, the late talkers relied more on nonword vocalization, gestures, and gesture/oral combinations than their normally developing peers. Children in both groups initiated much more with the examiner (who was instructed to be passive) than with their mothers. Finally, regression analysis suggested that intake expressive language delay severity was the best predictor of age 3 MLU and IPSyn language outcome in the late talkers. However, after expressive delay severity was accounted for, late talkers who were more interested in initiating communication and sustaining joint attention had worse outcomes than late talkers whose communicative drive was weaker, suggesting that they had a more severe underlying language dysfunction.



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