This study investigated and compared the advantages and disadvantages of a free speech sample and imitation type task in analyzing language performance in kindergarten children. An analysis of the language performance of 15 children was completed. Their language ranged in severity from normal to severely delayed. The children were divided into three distinct subgroups; severely delayed, moderately delayed and normal. The subject's scores were analyzed to determine if there was a significant difference in the reliability of these two measures and in the sensitivity in identifying presence and severity of disorder.

Laura Lee's Development of Sentence Structure (DSS) was the scoring system used in this study. This system includes eight developmental categories and eight levels of performance. This study tried to test these levels by constructing an imitation test. The imitation test included two items for each syntactical form scored on the DSS. There was a linear progression in the subjects scores over the eight levels in the free speech samples and the imitation test. This test confirmed the levels of development as outlined by Lee.

One purpose of this study was to determine if the subjects could be divided into the three subgroups on the basis of the two testing techniques. Neither test was found to be adequate in identifying all three subgroups. On the free speech sample, the severely delayed scored significantly lower than the moderately delayed and the control group.

On the imitation test, the two disordered subgroups could be differentiated from the normal. But, the two disordered subgroups (severely delayed and moderately delayed) could not be differentiated from each other.

The imitation test was divided so that all subjects were tested with the key words in the initial position of a sentence versus the key word in the middle or end of the sentence. This proved to be a significant factor. Initial placement consistently lead to greater success.

Test-retest reliability for the free speech sample and the imitation test appeared to be significantly correlated. On the basis of the findings of this study, it is evident that neither measure, the free speech sample nor the imitation test, should be used alone, but rather in conjunction with each other. Both forms of testing are necessary in order to obtain an accurate diagnosis of a child's language.

LLU Discipline

Speech Pathology


Speech-Language Pathology


Graduate School

First Advisor

Jean B. Lowry

Second Advisor

Jerry W. Lee

Third Advisor

Robert S. Streeter

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Year Degree Awarded


Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Language Tests; Language Disorders.



Page Count

vi; 45

Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations

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Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives