Lexical diversity and lexical skills in children who stutter

J Fluency Disord. 2020 Mar:63:105747. doi: 10.1016/j.jfludis.2020.105747. Epub 2020 Jan 22.


Purpose: Numerous "small N" studies of language ability in children who stutter have produced differing conclusions. We combined test and spontaneous language data from a large cohort of children who stutter (CWS) and typically fluent peers, gathered from independent laboratories across the US, to appraise a variety of lexical measures.

Method: Standardized receptive and expressive vocabulary test data and spontaneous language samples from 99 pairs of CWS (ages 25-100 months), and age-, gender-, and SES-matched children who do not stutter (CWNS) were compared. Language sample transcripts were analyzed with four measures of lexical diversity. Correlations between lexical diversity measures and expressive vocabulary scores were also calculated.

Results: On standardized tests of both receptive and expressive vocabulary, there were significant differences between CWS and CWNS. In contrast, on spontaneous language measures of lexical diversity, CWS did not differ in their lexical diversity, across analyses, compared to CWNS. Three of the four lexical diversity analyses, MATTR, VocD, and NDW, were significantly correlated with each other.

Conclusions: We were able to confirm prior findings of relative disadvantage on standardized vocabulary tests for a very large sample of well-matched CWS. However, spontaneous language measures of lexical diversity did not distinguish the groups. This relative weakness in CWS may emerge from task differences: CWS are free to encode their own spontaneous utterances but must comply with explicit lexical prompts in standardized testing situations.

Keywords: Fluency; Language; Lexical diversity; Stuttering.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Language Tests
  • Language*
  • Linguistics
  • Male
  • Stuttering*
  • Vocabulary*