Relative clauses are grammatical constructions that are of relevance in both typical and impaired language development. Thus, the accurate identification of these structures in child language samples is clinically important. In recent years, computer software has been used to assist in the automated analysis of clinical language samples. However, this software has had only limited success when attempting to identify relative clauses. The present study explores the development and clinical importance of relative clauses and investigates the accuracy of the software used for automated identification of these structures. Two separate collections of language samples were used. The first collection included 10 children with language impairment, ranging in age from 7;6 to 11;1 (years;months), 10 age-matched peers, and 10 language-matched peers. A second collection contained 30 children considered to have typical speech and language skills and who ranged in age from 2;6 to 7;11. Language samples were manually coded for the presence of relative clauses (including those containing a relative pronoun, those without a relative pronoun and reduced relative clauses). These samples were then tagged using computer software and finally tabulated and compared for accuracy. ANACOVA revealed a significant difference in the frequency of relative clauses containing a relative pronoun but not for those without a relative pronoun nor for reduce relative clauses. None of the structures were significantly correlated with age; however, frequencies of both relative clauses with and without relative pronouns were correlated with mean length of utterance. Kappa levels revealed that agreement between manual and automated coding was relatively high for each relative clause type and highest for relative clauses containing relative pronouns.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Communication Disorders



Date Submitted


Document Type





relative clause, automated analysis, language samples