Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communication Sciences and Disorders

First Advisor

Janet A. Norris

Second Advisor

Robert C. Lafayette


This investigation was guided by Nelson's (1996) experiential theory and the Situational-Discourse-Semantic (SDS) model of Norris and Hoffman (1993, 1997, in press) which was used to establish predictions regarding the representational difficulty of each of the task conditions. Subjects were 32 four-year-old children enrolled in four prekindergarten programs located within a small city in southern Louisiana and represented both lower and middle SES populations. The tasks required subjects to represent knowledge of the bedtime routine, ranging from personal enactments with props through generation of stories and event scripts for hypothetical situations. Performances were analyzed for content in terms of event structure or story structure. The linguistic forms of the performances were analyzed for MLU, completeness, and complexity. Subjects were predicted to perform higher on lower level tasks. The view of representational abilities as existing along a continuum of displacement levels as proposed by the SDS model was largely supported by the analysis of content scores. Partial support resulted for the prediction that children would produce utterances with more completeness and complexity for tasks rated as lower levels of the SDS model. Experiential theory and the SDS model propose that the ability to represent information displaced from the self and the present time and space is mediated by language experience with caretakers in direct and indirect literacy experiences. Subjects having higher levels of home literacy experience, as measured by a caretaker questionnaire, were predicted to perform higher on higher level tasks. Subgroups were formed according to caretaker reports for higher and lower amounts of home literacy experience. Performance scores for the two groups were compared. Results largely supported this prediction as the higher literacy experience group scored higher on all tasks with significant differences for 5 of the 7 tasks on content and for only the highest level task on form. Content and form scores for all subjects on the 7 representational tasks were also correlated with the home literacy experience scores. Correlations for individual performances and home literacy experience generally supported predictions made by the SDS model as high correlations were found for the highest level tasks.