Transcription Analysis of a Normally Developing Child
The language sample under review was transcribed from a ten-minute recording
of a four-year old child in the context of free play with a Lego set; no other materials
were utilized. Only the adult (represented with an R) and the child (represented with a P)
participated in the conversation. Seventy-three of the child’s respective utterances were
counted and recorded for analysis. Thus, this transcription is only an excerpt of dialogue
from the session and may not correctly represent the child’s comprehensive language
abilities in other contexts. For the purposes of this written description, however, the
child’s language development will be determined based upon the sample under review.
Overall, the outcome of the recording was positive. The child was completely
engaged in the activity, and made appropriate comments based in the context of the
conversation. He also demonstrated creative thinking, problem solving, and exceptional
use of conversational skills throughout the duration of the session. Much of the success
can be attributed to following the suggested guidelines for interaction. The child was able
to choose the topic of play, and the adult continued and elaborated upon his utterances
while limiting the use of questions as conversational stimulators. Because the child was
given encouraging feedback, his interest was sustained, improving the quality of his
The goal of any completed transcription is to represent the child’s true language
as closely as possible. Style and punctuation conventions are used to further clarify the
nature of the utterance, and to determine –on paper– the manner in which an utterance
was spoken. Representativeness can be affected by many factors: the relationship
between the child and the adult, the setting and surrounding activity, and the kinds of
materials used as topics of discussion (Retherford 9-11). This particular sample was
recorded at the child’s house, a place where he felt safe and comfortable, and that
allowed him access to all of his own toys. Also, the adult participating in the session was
someone with whom the child was very familiar. Therefore, before the recording ever
began, much of the criteria necessary to produce a representative sample were met.
Some changes, however, could be made. For example, the adult and child never
left the room for the duration of the recording; if they had recorded samples in the kitchen
or even outside, the transcription would be more representative of the child’s true
language development. Also, Legos were the only toy utilized. The use of a variety of
toys would have elicited opportunities for the child to exemplify his vocabulary ability in
another context as well.Context specific language can limit the child’s lexical variety in a
sample, and obtaining samples in multiple contexts helps to broaden the availability of
different content specific language.
Taking a closer look at some of the major language characteristics, the sample can
be analyzed from multiple viewpoints: phonology, morphology, semantics, pragmatics,
and syntax. Semantic analysis is very important for determining the appropriate measures
to take when developing a treatment plan for children with language delays. “A variety of
procedures are appropriate, including analysis of individual semantic roles, analysis of
prevalent semantic relations, and analysis of vocabulary diversity” (35). The child
recorded in the sample under review has normally developing language, therefore, his
semantic achievements should compare to the standards determined by these tests.
In this sample, the child demonstrated exceptional use of vocabulary associated
with playing Legos. He correctly labeled pieces of the set as a vegetable, flowers, an
aisle, etc., as he and the adult were constructing a “grocery store.” It is obvious that he
had previous knowledge of words associated with shopping in a grocery store, because he
was able to retrieve the words and then name the representational items in the Lego set.
Near the end of the sample, he is able to exemplify use of vocabulary that is not as
contextualized. He shifts from a fictional mindset to a realistic dilemma when he says,
“we don’t have any cinnamon crescent rolls.” The child goes on to use novel vocabulary
to clarify his message with the adult.
Syntax is the most manipulated language characteristic in a transcribed sample. In
order to calculate the mean length of utterance and determine if the child has delayed
language production, each utterance and individual morpheme must be counted. The
child in this sample is producing complete sentences and multiple word utterances. He
also correctly forms and asks wh- questions and makes suggestions. According to Miller
and Chapman (1981), “When the child’s age is lower than the age range for the MLU
stage, the appropriate conclusion is that the child’s production is advanced for his age”
(161). After calculating the mean length of utterance for this sample, it is safe to suggest
that the child recorded has very advanced language for his age. Considering that the child
had just turned four, his MLU should be around or above 4.60. The MLU calculated for
this sample exceeded 7.0.
Pragmatics is one of the later developing skills of language characteristics, and it
is never completely mastered. Even adults are constantly altering and advancing their
social language skills. It has been said, “the ability to communicate within conversation is
thought to develop from mutual focus and joint activity in which both participants engage
in interaction” (165). Pragmatics, unlike other characteristics of language, cannot develop
solely from learning and using language itself. It is a system that has to be mastered
through interaction and conversation, giving the child an opportunity to make mistakes
and, in turn, be corrected by an adult who understands the language systems and
conventions of the culture. However, it can be “measured”, more or less, by a few factors
that can be discussed based on the transcription.
The child demonstrated throughout the sample that he was able to follow the rules
of pragmatic language, such as: taking turns in conversation, introducing topics of
conversation, staying on topic, rephrasing when misunderstood, the use verbal and
nonverbal signals, and the use facial expressions and eye contact (ASHA). When he
detected surprise or uncertainty in the prosody of the adult’s voice, the child would often
restate or rephrase his previous utterance. Also, he was able to make suggestions to the
adult about what to build, or how to use certain pieces of the play set. Making indirect
suggestions is an advanced form of pragmatic language use.
Phonology and morphology are the most basic foundations of language.
Phonology, which focuses on the systematic organizations of sound in languages, is
almost completely mastered by the age of four. Certain sounds, like the /z/, /sh/, /th/ and
/v/, commonly develop later than most phonemes, but the child in this recording did not
demonstrate any difficulty with phoneme production. Morphology and syntax are closely
related, but syntax focuses more on the sentence structure while morphology focuses on
word structure. After transcribing this sample, and counting morphemes, the child’s
morphological abilities became clear. Most noticeably,he was very skilled in applying the
plural and possessive endings to words, and preferred to use contractions of word pairsin
As the adult participating in the recording, and transcribing the sample, I am so
pleased to have had the pleasure of working with this child and determining his current
language development. He was easy to work with and very compliant and polite
throughout the entire process. I learned so much about the skills necessary to interact
with children and encourage their participation in an active conversation. Also, the
immersive activity of transcribing the sample, led me to ask questions and analyze
language at a deeper level for the first time. It will take plenty of practice and years of
experience to perfect the process, always considering that every child is different, but this
experience was the first step in the right direction.
ASHA. "Social Language Use (Pragmatics)." Social Language Use (Pragmatics).
ASHA, n.d. Web. 02 Nov. 2013.
Retherford, Kristine S., Ph.D. Guide to Analysis of Language Transcripts. 3rd ed.
Austin: ProEd, 2007. Print.
Description of Transcription
4 November 2013