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German Communicative Development Inventory

An Adaptation of the MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventory for Toddlers

Gisela Szagun, Barbara Stumper and Satyam Antonio Schramm

This research presents a German adaptation of the American MacArthur-Bates Commmunicative Inventory (CDI) for toddlers, with the addition of a detailed inflectional morphology scale. The name of the instrument is FRAKIS (Fragebogen zur frühkindlichen Sprachentwicklung). The research presents the first norm data of early language development for German-speaking children. Results of the study confirm the enormous variability in early language development found in other languages for German. There was also a strong relation between lexical and grammatical development, including between specific lexical and grammatical areas. The instrument FRAKIS is an excellent tool for assessing language level in young children, be it for research purposes or in clinical settings.
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1 Normality and variability in language development


1.1 Average child or variability?

Language is a human behaviour of great importance. It enables us to communicate and it structures concept formation. Human children acquire language during the course of early childhood. This occurs as a natural process without specific instruction. All healthy young children acquire a first language – or mother-tongue. One can hardly stop a child acquiring her or his mother-tongue (Pinker, 1994). In typical development children acquire a basic vocabulary and a basic grammar during a time span of roughly three years. For most children this occurs between the ages of one and four years. They start with first words around their first birthday and have acquired the basic grammar of their first language by the age of four (Pinker, 1994; Tomasello, 2003; Szagun 2013). While grammatical learning will soon come to an end – with even rare structures being acquired and errors disappearing – vocabulary learning can be a life-long process.

Until around the end of the 1980s a dominant view was that language acquisition occurs in “stages” during which each child acquires the same linguistic structures and at the same age. While nobody ever defined exactly what constituted a “stage” in the sense of specifying which structures of a particular language belong to a specific stage and what constitutes the beginning and the end of a stage, the “stage” conceptualization has been surprisingly enduring (Stromswold, 2000). Less enduring has been the view that all children acquire language at the same pace....

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