Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Communicative Disorders and Deaf Education

Committee Chair(s)

Sandra Gillam


Sandra Gillam


Ron Gillam


Brittan Barker


The purpose of the current study was to examine the use of specific English syntactic structures that are important for the development of narrative proficiency in elementary school-age students who are Spanish–English dual language learners (SE DLL) at-risk for language and literacy difficulties (AR-LLD). Specifically, we examined children’s use of 9 sentence structures (simple, coordinating, subordinating, complementing, subject-subject relative, subject-object relative, object-object relative, object-subject relative and participle). Participants were at-risk and selected from a larger randomized control trial study. One hundred and twenty-eight participants’ stories in grades 1-4 were transcribed using DSS transcription criteria and then the stories were coded for syntactic structures. All 128 stories were 100% double-coded by research assistants to maintain interrater reliability. Two research questions were proposed: 1) What is the proportion of complex utterances in oral narratives produced by Spanish-English DLLs who are AR-LLD in grades 1-4? And 2) What types of complex utterances are used in oral narratives produced by Spanish-English DLLs who are AR-LLD across grades 1-4? Descriptive statistics revealed the overall average number of complex clauses per utterance increased across grades and this difference was found to be significant. When exploring the average number of each type of complex clause that were used in stories produced, we found significant differences across grades for coordinate clauses and complement clauses. Multiple linear regression was used to test if grade, total number of utterances, and mean length of utterance in morphemes significantly predicted the average number of coordinate clauses included in an utterance. Grade was discovered to be the only significant predictor and the overall regression analysis was statistically significant. This indicates that the average number of complex clauses increased from first to second grade, from second to third grade and from third to fourth grade for coordinate clauses and complement clauses. Subordinate clauses, participle clauses and the four types of relative clauses did not increase significantly as grade increased.

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