CHILDES English Rollins Corpus

Pamela Rollins
Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders
University of Texas at Dallas


Participants: 54
Type of Study: naturalistic
Location: USA
Media type: video
DOI: doi:10.21415/T56P5Q

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Project Description


The transcripts presented were part of a prospective longitudinal study. Participants were recruited by mail as part of the University of Texas at Dallas Language and Communication Database Project. Only full-term (38–42 weeks gestation) monolingual, normal birth-weight children (at least 2500 g), who did not experience extensive medical complications at birth, other major illnesses, hospitalizations, or developmental disabilities, were included. The participants were all from well-educated families. Years of maternal education ranged from 12 to 20 with a mean of 16.5 years and a standard deviation 1.91 years. All children were learning English as their first language, and none of the parents reported that their child experienced substantive exposure to another language (i.e., more than 7 hr per week). All participants were brought into the lab within 1 week of their 6, 9, 12, 18, 22, and 30-month birthdays, where they were engaged in a parent–child interaction. In addition, parents completed a commercially available parental report instrument, the MacArthur CDI: Words & Gestures (CDI W&G; Fenson et al., 1993).

Data collection and procedures for laboratory visits

All videotapes were collected in a child friendly laboratory at UTD. Laboratory visits were held in a child-friendly observation room with two-way mirrors on the front and back walls. Parent–child dyads sat facing each other and engaged in spontaneous play interactions using a standard set of age-appropriate toys. Parents were instructed to play with their child as they would typically. At 9 months the infants were seated in an infant seat with a tray where toys could be placed, and at 12 and 30 months they were seated on the floor. For all sessions, split-screen images were videotaped for later data reduction and analyses.


For each mother–infant dyad, 10 min of toy-mediated play was transcribed onto computer files and formatted in accordance with the CHAT transcription conventions of the CHILDES system (MacWhinney, 1991). Transcripts were verified by a second transcriber for content and checked for adherence to transcription conventions using the automatic checking facilities of the CHILDES system. Utterance boundaries were based primarily on intonation contour and, secondarily, on pause duration. No attempt was made to distinguish the number of unintelligible words in a string. Discrepancies in the transcription were resolved by consensus.


The transcripts are coded using The Inventory of Communicative Acts—Abridged (INCA-A; Ninio, Snow, Pan, & Rollins, 1994). A description of these codes may be found in the speech act section of the CHAT manual. The INCA-A is a shortened and modified version of the system developed by Ninio and Wheeler (1984; see also Ninio & Snow, 1996). The system is based both on speech act theory (Austin, 1962; Searle, 1976) and studies of face to face interaction (Goffman 1974; Streeck, 1980) that emphasize the importance of socially constructed communicative interchanges. Thus, the system identifies and codes communicative intent at two different levels, the level of the social interchange and the level of the utterance, thus acknowledging the existence of an organization of talk at a level higher than the single utterance (c.f. Dore & McDermott, 1982; Streeck, 1980). An interchange is defined as one or more rounds of talk, all of which serve a unitary interactive function implicitly agreed upon by the interlocutors. Within this social interchange, speakers express specific intents at the utterance level. The INCA-A, then, actually consists of two subsystems, each of which codes for a different component of communicative intent. Because the system was designed to provide exhaustive coding of the communicative attempts expressed by children of varying ages (as well as their mothers), it can reflect development and continuity across a wide age range.