The developmental trajectory of English conditional grammar in 4- to 11-year-old children
BADGER J., Pascoe E., Jagmetti L., Baldwin E., Mellanby J.
Grammar is an essential aspect of language and communication, yet little is known about the developmental trajectory of the conditional – a complex grammar structure. We extended existing research to get a clearer idea of the developmental trajectory of Type I, Type II and Type III conditionals in typically developing children aged 4- to 11-years old. Data from 316 children were collected on measures of production and comprehension of the conditional, alongside measures of general ability, memory and word reading. Our data shows that as the complexity of the conditional sentence increases, so does the difficultly in correctly reproducing it. However, a more stable development was observed when measuring children’s comprehension which, along with the observed links between acquisition and reasoning, suggests that comprehension may be reliant on a qualitative change in children’s thinking. We also found links between acquisition and word reading which points to an important relationship between success in the early stages of reading and the internalisation of this grammar. Conditional grammar is important within key school subjects such as English, maths and science; we were able to combine our data with published data to map out the ages at which typically developing children should be able to reproduce and comprehend conditionals. Identifying those children who are lagging behind in this language development should in turn allow targeted intervention and enable a reduction in the number of those entering secondary school without complete production or comprehension of conditionals.