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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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For some years children’s linguistic abilities have been a topic in German scientific, popular science and media publications. Unfortunately, most of the discussion tended to bemoan the lack of good linguistic abilities in young children. Statements about so-called language disturbance in young children dominate the discussion – with vastly exaggerated percentages of between 20% and 33% of preschool children suffering from “linguistic deficits”, “language delay” or “language disturbance”. Amongst two-year olds 20% are said to be at risk to develop subsequent language impairment. Demands for a general screening of two-year-olds have been voiced repeatedly. It seems that there is little conception of language development as a developmental phenomenon which is part of human behavioural development and, just like other developmental phenomena, displays a large amount of variation.

Faced with this situation and a lack of norms for early language development in German-speaking children we felt it was high time to create an instrument for measuring early language development in German and provide norm data. We carried out a research project which altogether ran over four years at the Carl-von-Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg. For a large scale study of early language development, parental questionnaire data are required. We adapted the American Communicative Development Instrument (CDI) Toddler Scale (Fenson, Dale, Reznick, Bates, Thal & Pethick, 1994, 1st edition) to German. The adaptation required some changes in vocabulary, and a rewriting of some sections. We added a detailed section on inflectional morphology covering basic paradigms of German inflectional morphology. Thus,...

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