Language is comprised of sounds, words, phrases and sentences. At all levels, language is rule-based. At the sound level, phonology refers to the rules of the sound system and the rules of sound combination. At the word level, morphology refers to the structure and construction of words. Morphology skills require an understanding and use of the appropriate structure of a word, such as word roots, prefixes, and affixes (called morphemes). Strong knowledge of grammatical morphemes, such as use of –ing for a present progressive verb, /s/ to indicate a plural form and correct use of verb tense, is necessary in order to have well developed morphology skills. Syntax refers to the rules of word order and word combinations in order to form phrases and sentences.
Solid syntactic skills require an understanding and use of correct word order and organization in phrases and sentences and also the ability to use increasingly complex sentences as language develops.
Children with morphology and syntactic deficits experience difficulty learning and using the rules that govern word formation (morphemes) and phrase/sentence formation (syntactic structures). At the word level, these children may not correctly use plural forms or verb tenses. At the phrase or sentence level, children with syntactic deficits might use incorrect word order, leave out words, or use a limited number of complex sentences, such as those that contain prepositional clauses. Children with disorders of motor speech control are likely to have concomitant difficulties with morphology related to impaired speech control. For example, a child with a motor speech disorder may not be able to produce /s/ and /z/ and therefore does not mark plural forms. Disorganized and/or immature language in phrases and sentences is also seen frequently in children with motor speech disorders, as words may be omitted or sentences simplified due to difficulty with speech production. At Children’s Speech and Language Services, therapists will assess a child’s skills of morphology and syntax and develop a treatment plan tailored to the needs of the child. Children will work on developing an understanding and use of age appropriate morphemes and syntactic structures during interactive therapy activities. For children with co-occurring disorders of motor speech control, target words and phrases are developed to both improve motor speech control and improve the use of grammatical morphemes and syntax.
A child with morphology and syntax deficits may:
By age twenty-four months:
By age thirty months:
By age thirty-six months:
By age forty-two months:
By age forty-eight months:
By age forty-eight to sixty months:
By age five to seven years old:
For more information on the development of morphology and syntax, please visit, Speech Language Therapy.
Paul, R (2001). Language Disorders from Infancy through Adolescence: Assessment and Intervention 2nd Edition. St. Louis, Missouri: Mosby, Inc.