DOI: 10.1044/2023_lshss-23-00021 ISSN: 0161-1461

Assessing Narrative Microstructure in Mandarin-Speaking School-Age Children

Zixing Fan, Jinfen Xu
  • Speech and Hearing
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Language and Linguistics


As a representative form of discourse, oral narratives offer a sensitive, flexible, and ecologically valid tool for language evaluation. Nevertheless, oral narrative assessments in mainland China remain uncommon among school-age children. Therefore, this study explores the effectiveness of narrative microstructural assessment in Mandarin-speaking school-age children. Its primary purpose is to lay a foundation for future clinical applications by establishing a feasible administration procedure and validating various viable measures to facilitate the evaluation of language proficiencies.


Narrative samples were collected through a single wordless picture from 285 Mandarin-speaking children ages 7–12 years (Grades 1–6). The samples were then coded using a semiautomatic method for 22 individual measures at word, sentence, and discourse levels.


The adapted elicitation method was effective for all grades, with most of the children's stories exhibiting sufficient length, coherent structure, and certain self-fabricated specifics. The semiautomatic coding was also convenient and promising. Altogether, 19 measures were identified as robust predictors of grades, revealing a general tendency of grade-related increase from Grades 1 to 5. These measures exhibited three representative nonlinear trajectory patterns with varied rates of increase. Then, we developed a comprehensive composite measure through factor analysis, which combined six individual measures. The analysis verified the single factor of narrative microstructural competence and showed strong evidence of construct validity.


This study has provided a practical set of administration procedures, validated the efficacy of 19 individual measures as well as a composite measure, and offered corresponding field test data for clinical matching. The findings underscored the reliability and informative nature of oral narrative microstructural assessment in Mandarin-speaking school-age children.

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