Sentence formation (syntax)
In expressive language there are rules that each language follows for word order and sentence structure, these rules are referred to as syntax.
Children who have difficulties with word order or sentence structure can often be difficult to understand or easily misunderstood as the words in the sentence are jumbled up or don’t flow.
Our speech and language therapists can provide an assessment to assess your child’s ability to form and use sentences appropriately as well as highlight any possible difficulties. Our speech and language therapists will use the information from the assessment to form a therapy programme to increase your child’s sentence skills.
What is sentence formation (syntax)?
To form a sentence the two components that are required are word order and sentence structure.
Firstly, for a group of words to be a sentence, and the sentence to be complete, it must express a complete thought, and contain a subject, object and verb.
In English, the word order for a sentence always follows the pattern; subject, verb, and object. So a simple sentence following that structure would be ‘mike ate chicken’.
Mike = subject
Ate = verb
Chicken = object
The subject is whom or what the sentence is about.
The verb is the action the subject does.
The object is whoever or whatever receives the action.
As a sentence becomes more complex and increases in words, the pattern will still remain. A subject will always come before a verb and a verb will always come before an object.
Sentences are made up of clauses. Clauses are a group of words that contain a subject and a verb. There are two types of clauses; dependent and independent clauses. Dependent clauses rely on other clauses to make sense, as they do not express an entire thought, and therefore cannot act as complete sentence. An independent clause can act as a complete sentence, as it makes sense unaided and expresses an entire thought.
There are four types of sentence structures in the English language:
- A simple sentence - contains only one independent clause e.g. Tom hit the ball.
- A compound sentence - contains at least two independent clauses e.g. John hit the table and Mike bumped the chair.
- A complex sentence – contains a dependent clause and independent clause e.g. Alex complimented the chef after he ate dinner.
- A compound complex sentence – contains at least two independent clauses and one dependent clause e.g. Max ate a waffle and Ben ate a pancake before lunch.
Words that join words, clauses or sentences together are called conjunctions, for example, words like and, or, but.
Word order is important in expressive language as it allows others to understand what you are saying. It is a clear and agreed guideline of what order words should be in to make sense to others. Difficulties with word order can lead to a child’s language becoming misunderstood.
Sentence structure is important in written expression as well as verbal expression as it allows you to become more fluent in your expression.
Impact of difficulties with sentence formation (syntax) on expressive language
Difficulties with syntax can impact a child’s expressive language skills and can cause:
- Poor narrative skills.
- Incorrect word order causing misinterpretation.
- Omission of words in sentences.
- Limited number of complex sentences.
- May speak in short simple sentences.
- May talk in single words.
- Difficulties with literacy skills.
A child who has a difficulty with sentence structure might speak in single words and struggle to express their thoughts fully. If a child speaks in single words it can impact their conversational skills and overall communication.
Our speech and language therapists provide therapy for children who have difficulties with word order and sentence structure, by providing strategies and exercises that map out a clear order for which words should be in, to make sense. Our speech and language therapists work alongside the child’s school and parents to create a therapy programme that can be applied and supported across all of the child’s environments.
Speech and language therapy available for difficulties with sentence formation and syntax
Our speech and language therapists can provide your child with a unique therapy programme, using your child’s motivators to target your child’s specific area difficulties. Our speech and language therapists will implement yours and the school's priorities into the therapy programme.
Speech and language therapy available includes:
- Individual therapy.
- Group therapy.
- Support, training, advice and strategies for parents, teachers and other professionals.