A broadened estimate of syntactic and lexical ability from the MB-CDI

Trevor Day, Jed T. Elison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A critical question in the study of language development is to understand lexical and syntactic acquisition, which play different roles in speech to the extent it would be natural to surmise they are acquired differently. As measured through the comprehension and production of closed-class words, syntactic ability emerges at roughly the 400-word mark. However, a significant proportion of the developmental work uses a coarse combination of function and content words on the MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventory (MB-CDI). Using the MB-CDI Wordbank database, we implemented a factor analytic approach to distinguish between lexical and syntactic development from the Words and Sentences (WS) form that involves both function words and the explicit categorizations. Although the Words and Gestures (WG) form did not share the factor structure, common WG/WS elements recapitulate the expected age-related changes. This parsing of the MB-CDI may prove simple, yet fruitful in subsequent investigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of child language
Early online dateMay 11 2021
StatePublished - May 11 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press.


  • language acquisition
  • lexical development
  • syntactic development
  • toddlers


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