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Toby Mehl - Graduate Center, City University of New York

Toby's poster

Late Talkers: Types of Questions in Maternal Input

Toby Mehl, MS, CCC-SLP

PhD Candidate, Graduate Center, CUNY

Michelle MacRoy-Higgins, PhD Hunter College, CUNY

Valerie Shafer, PhD, Graduate Center, CUNY

Isabelle Barriere, PhD, Molloy College

Dissertation Committee


The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between a toddler’s language, as measured by expressive vocabulary, and the child directed questions by the mother of the child. Maternal input to children who show expressive language delays, characterized as ‘late talkers’ (LT) was compared to the maternal input presented to two control groups: a typically developing age-matched group (TD-AM) and a typically developing vocabulary-matched group (TD-VM). Nine monolingual English-speaking mother-child dyads participated in the study; all dyads were part of a homogenous socioeconomic status group. Three dyads included LT toddlers, while three dyads included TD-AM toddlers and three other dyads included TD-VM toddlers.

An eight minute play interaction between each mother-child dyad was recorded for maternal input analysis. All questions asked by the mothers during the play interaction were analyzed, in order to determine if significant group differences existed in this social-pragmatic language measure of the maternal input. Results indicated that there were no significant differences in the overall number of questions posed by the mothers in the three groups during play. However, significant differences were noted in the number of ‘wh’ questions that were asked by the mothers of the LT to their toddlers when compared to the amount of ‘wh’ questions posed during play by the mothers of the TD-AM and TD-VM groups. This suggests that maternal ‘wh’ questions during play may elicit a richer language communication interaction between a mother and child.


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