Average duration of declaration (2023)

Expression Average Duration

January 29, 2014

graham williamson

Categories: Language

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Kinderlanguage developmentfollow a sequential order. This is true of developing expressive language skills, and as they mature, the length of their speeches increases (see alsoExtension of utterances with "E"). Consequently, we can relate the length of a sentence to the age of the child. Therefore, we can say that at the age of 20 to 30 months two statements are normally madeWordslong, at 28-42 months they have up to four words, at 34-48 months they have up to six words and from 48 months they have more than six words. Therefore, it should be possible to measure the typical duration of a child's speeches and determine whether or not it is appropriate for her age.

Well, the basic element of language is themorpheme[ie H. the smallest element in a language that can produce a difference in meaning, e.g. in the worddisinterested,dis-is a prefix-Interest-is a root and-edis a suffix: they are all morphemes] and not the word. Therefore, it is more revealing to determine the length of a child's utterances in terms of morphemes rather than words. The developing morphological abilities of the child are taken into account, as well as their own.syntactic skills. Of course, it is not enough to observe a single utterance, since the duration of utterances varies greatly. If I ask 'Where do you live?', you can simply say 'Hull' or 'In Hull' or 'I live in Hull' and so on. Therefore, it is necessary to examine several sentences and then calculate the average sentence length by counting the number of individual morphemes in each sentence. We will now provide a limited example of how to compute Average Expression Length (MLU).

Suppose we listen to a 48-month-old child make the following statements.

go home now

i live in billingham

mom kissed my dad

I like your dogs

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We can calculate the MLU as follows. We take each statement in turn and count the number of morphemes in the statements. Therefore, we would analyze the statements as follows.

to walknative citynow
1+1+1= 3
MamiKiss-edUEHe says


So there are 17 morphemes in all. Now, to find the average sentence length, we take the total number of morphemes (17) and divide it by the total number of sentences (4). Therefore, the average length of the expressions is 17/4 = 4.25.

What we must do now is determine the age at which most children would exhibit an average speech duration equal to that attained by our particular child. This is known as theappropriate age. To do this, we read the age equivalent from Table 1. From the table, we see that an MLU of 4.25 is between 4.09 and 4.40. From this we can conclude that a child between the ages of 45 and 48 months would be expected to have an MLU of 4.25. Knowing that our particular son is 48 months old, the average length of the child's speeches seems appropriate for her age. This suggests, then, that this child's expressive language skills are developing in a typical way.


appropriate age

(within 1 month)


Table 1: Mean length of expressions (MLU) by age[Quelle: Miller (1981)]

It is worth making a final note about calculating an MLU. Whereas analyzing four utterances is better than analyzing only one (we would have an MLU of 3.00 if we analyzed only the child's first utterance).go home now), four statements are still not enough to achieve anything close to reasonable precision. Ideally, no fewer than 100 statements should be analysed. The more expressions that can be analyzed, the more accurate the result will be (Miller & Chapman, 1981; Bishop & Adams, 1990). While an MLU is useful as an indicator of expression language development, it should not be used as the sole measure of expression language capability. Garton and Pratt (1998) state that there is a positive correlation between EME and chronological age. However, they caution that the correlation is weak. Therefore, an MLU is at best a useful guide, as it is not robust enough to make detailed diagnostic measurements. For example, it is not always easy to decide what constitutes an utterance in a child's speech. It can also be difficult to determine what counts as a morpheme. For example, if the past simple of irregular verbs (p.corner,they brought,I went) are counted as a morpheme, while regular verbs (eg.mounted,reproduced,pushed) are counted as two? There is no doubt that the regular forms of the simple past tense consist of two morphemes, and we know that the child's ability to sign this past tense occurs early in morpheme acquisition (see Table 2).


morphological characteristic


age of



present continuous-in g

sing dadin gmummy gamein g




wrenchnocup, ballnocash register




She wasabed, cupaTisch



plural regular-s

two catss, three dogss



irregular past tense

Mamiit fell, buenoI went




Mamiofcabin, dadofAuto



non-contractible copula

you guysit is(answer to Who's excited?)




mom shellandDog,aShe was




go dadeducate, a car accidenteducate



normal third person-s

mummy walks, play fathers



irregular third person

Mamidisapproving gesture, buenosombreroa ball



non-contractible excipient

you guysit is(Answer toWho is coming?)



contractile copula

it isofhappy (cf.He's happy)



contractile excipient

Mamiofplay (cf.mother is playing)



It is used 90% correctly in mandatory contexts, i.e. H. in contexts where Standard English requires the use of the morpheme (eg.-in gsuffix because it is necessary in the context of a progressive action).

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Table 2. The order of acquisition of English morphemes[Source: Brown (1973) and Miller (1981)]

If our focus is on the child's growing ability to signal meaning, the irregular past tense can be considered on the same basis, that is, they also signal the meaning of the past tense. The fact that the irregular past tenses in English are not structurally composed of two easily identifiable elements is simply an artifact of the English language. However, it is questionable whether the child understands the irregular past tenses as separate units. From this perspective, they would be seen as built from a single morpheme: a unit of meaning, a morpheme.

Difficulties like those described above often result in different analysts calculating slightly different MLUs for the same returns. Because of this, it is common to specify the protocol to follow when calculating an MLU. Others may legitimately argue about the decision-making process, but at least one protocol provides a basic basis for calculating MLUs. Figure 1 shows a very typical protocol.

how to count morphemes



Select 100 fully understandable utterances (ie, if a single word in a utterance is not understood, that utterance is excluded from the analysis. Words that are not understandable are transcribed as x).


Count the morphemes in each sentence according to the guidelines in the Counting and NOT Counting sections below.


Add the number of morphemes in the 100 expressions to get the total number of morphemes used.


Divide the total number of morphemes used, obtained in step 3 above, by 100 to get the average length of the expression.



Der Pluralmarker -s (z. B.Cats dogs). Also count when used in irregular plural forms (eg.wheel). [exception: Plural forms never appear in the singular (p.pants, dresses) only counts as a morpheme.]


The past marker -ed (walked, played). The -ed morpheme is also counted when used incorrectly (go-ed, getrunken-ed).


The present participle marker -ing (eg.walk, count).


The third person regular time mark in -s (p.he likes sweets, Bob walks fast). [exception:disapproving gesturecounts as a morpheme.]


Possessive Marker (z.B.mummy hat, child toy).


contractions (eg.she is, he will, they are, what is, she, we have, we can't, we are notwould count as 2 morphemes each). [exceptions:let's not do thatmihabitthey are understood as separate units and not as a contraction of two words, so they are counted as a single morpheme.]

Don't count it:


Incorrect starts, rearrangements, or repetitions unless the repetition is for emphasis (eg, "[so] then [he goes] went to the zoo" counts as 6 morphemes; "No! No! No!" is counts as 3).


Compound words, duplications, and proper nouns count as single words (p.Bombeiro, Choo Choo, Big Bird).


Irregular verbs in the past tense and irregular plural forms count as one morpheme (p.took, went, mice, men).


diminutives (eg.Peor Dolly dog) and catenative (for example,will, will, hafta) counts as a morpheme.


fillers (eg.um, bueno, oh, um hmm).

Figure 1. Protocol to calculate the average length of a statement[Quelle: Johnson (2005)]

Bishop, DVM & Adams, C. (1990) "A Prospective Study of the Relationship Between Specific Language Impairment, Phonological Disorders, and Reading Delay"Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry31, 1027–1050.

Brown, R. (1973)a first languageLondon: Allen and Unwin.

Garton, A. F. y Pratt, C. (1998)Learning to read and write (2nd ed.)Oxford: Blackwell.

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Johnson, BW (2005)Mean Expression Length (MLU)[WWW] http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/bwjohn/4004/Materials/MLU.htm Accessed 4/3/2009.

Miller, J. F. (1981) 'Deriving the procedure for language' in Miller, J. F. (Hrsg.)Assessment of language production in children.Londres: Eduard Arnold.

Miller, JF and Chapman, RS (1981) "The relationship between age and the average length of expressions in morphemes"Journal of Speech and Hearing Research24, 2, 154-161.

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