Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Communicative Disorders and Deaf Education

Committee Chair(s)

Sandi Gillam


Sandi Gillam


Ronald Gillam


Brittan Barker


The purpose of the study was to compare two well-accepted approaches to utterance segmentation to explore how the use of either method impacted the measurement of the number and type of complex sentences used by school-age students at risk for language and literacy impairments.

Self-generated oral narratives for 357 students in grades 1-4 were transcribed using SALT conventions and segmented using Communication-unit (C-unit) and Developmental Sentence Scoring (DSS) utterance criteria. After segmentation, the types of complex clause(s) in each utterance within each transcript were identified and coded. The complex clauses that were identified included coordinate and subordinate conjunctions, complement clauses, relative clauses, and participle clauses. Statistical analyses were used to determine whether differences existed in the identification of complex clauses in transcripts coded using C-unit or DSS utterance criteria.

Segmentation criteria were found to significantly impact the measurement of the proportion of simple to complex utterances as well as other language indices measured using SALT software. There were also significant differences between the proportions of each complex clause type compared to the total number of utterances between the two segmentation guidelines.

While both C-unit and DSS segmentation guidelines resulted in reliable measurements, DSS segmentation conventions revealed more clause complexity use in school-age children at risk for language and literacy impairments. Implementing DSS segmentation conventions in progress monitoring may result in a more sensitive display of clause complexity development.

Available for download on Tuesday, May 01, 2029