Chapter published in:Language Impairment in Multilingual Settings: LITMUS in action across Europe
Edited by Sharon Armon-Lotem and Kleanthes K. Grohmann
[Trends in Language Acquisition Research 29] 2021
► pp. 14–46
MAIN story comprehension
What can we expect of a typically developing child?
This study investigates story comprehension in 124 typically-developing children aged 4–6 growing up in Sweden, using the LITMUS Multilingual Assessment Instrument for Narratives (MAIN, Gagarina et al. 2012). 72 Swedish monolinguals and 52 Swedish-English bilinguals from similar socio-economic backgrounds told two MAIN stories each and answered standardised questions that probe inferencing of goals, thoughts and emotions of story characters. Overall comprehension scores were calculated, and responses to individual questions were analysed. Results were compared across age groups, languages, and tasks. Already at age 4, and certainly at age 6, overall comprehension scores were high, indicating good general understanding of the stories. Scores differed significantly between tasks, suggesting that comprehension of MAIN Cat/Dog is easier than Baby Birds/Baby Goats. On all tasks, protagonists’ goals were understood well at age 4, approaching ceiling (> 90%) at age 5–6. Internal states as initiating events were also relatively well understood. However, many children struggled to infer emotional reactions of protagonists when this necessitated taking the whole plotline into account. We suggest that the processing abilities of the average 6-year-old are not yet developed enough to master every aspect of inferential understanding probed on the MAIN. Results held across languages and mono-/bilinguals, suggesting that they generalise.
Keywords: emotion, inference, MAIN, story comprehension, Swedish
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