Trudeau, N., Sutton, A., Dagenais, E., De Broeck, S. & Morford, J. P. (2007). Construction of graphic symbol utterances by children, teenagers and aunts: The impact of structure and task demands. Journal of speech, Language and Hearing Research, 50, 1314-1329.
Purpose: This study investigated the impact of syntactic complexity and task demands on construction of utterances using picture communication symbols by participants from 3 age groups with no communication disorders. Method: Participants were 30 children [7;0 [years; months] to 8;11], 30 teenagers [12;0 to 13;11], and 30 adults (18 years and above). All participants constructed graphic symbol utterances to describe photographs presented with spoken French stimuli. Stimuli included simple and complex (object relative and subject relative) utterances describing the photographs, which were presented either 1 or at a time (neutral condition) or in an array of 4 (contrast condition). Results: Simple utterances lead to more uniform response patterns than complex utterances. Among complex utterances, subject relative sentences appeared more difficult to convey. Increasing the need for message clarity (i.e., contrast condition) elicited changes in the production of graphic symbol sequences for complex propositions. The effects of syntactic complexity and task demands were more pronounced for children. Conclusion: Graphic symbol utterance construction appears to involve more than simply transferring spoken language skills. One possible explanation is that this type of task requires higher levels of metalinguistic ability. Clinical implications and directions for further research are discussed.