Frog Story Corpora
Researchers in many countries have used Mercer Mayer’s wordless “frog
story” picture book entitled “Frog, where are you?” as a tool for
eliciting narrative descriptions. The book tells a story without words
in 24 pictures. The principle source for documentation of this work, its
rationale, and the various data analysis procedures is the book by
Berman and Slobin (1994). Because that book provides such complete
documentation for this project, the current documentation will only
cover the general issues in the research. Researchers can also consult
that book for a complete listing of research in additional languages and
with second-language learners using the Frog Story framework.
The same procedures were followed across different age groups. Each
participant was interviewed individually and was given the same
instructions (with slight variations for adults, preschool children, and
older children). A deliberate effort was made to minimize the burden on
memory, and to make children aware in advance that they were being asked
to tell a story. To this end, children were first asked to look through
the entire booklet, and then to tell the story again, while looking at
the pictures. They were explicitly oriented to the booklet as presenting
a “story” in the initial instructions: “Here is a book. This book tells
a story about a boy [point to picture on cover], a dog [point], and a
frog [point]. First, I want you to look at all the pictures. Pay
attention to each picture that you see and afterwards you will tell the
Because the goal was to leave the burden of narration on the child,
without scaffolding by the adult, the various adult interviewers were
instructed to minimize their verbal feedback to neutral comments that
would not influence the form of expression chosen by the child. It was
especially important that the interviewer avoid prompts that would lead
to a particular choice of verb tense, aspectual marking, or perspective
on the part of the child. The following prompt types were used,
presented below in English, in order of preference (neutrality): (1)
silence or nod of head, (2) “uh-huh,” “okay,” “yes,” (3) “Anything
else?” (4) “and...?”(5) “Go on.”
For most of the languages, groups of 12 participants were recorded at
several different age levels. The file names give the age level of the
participant along with a letter. The files were originally transcribed
in a format specified in the Berman and Slobin manual and then converted
to CHAT in 1995. The conversion to CHAT was straightforward except for
the English Berkeley data which will need some additional
double-checking to eliminate inaccuracies. During the conversion,
pictures were marked with @g headers. Researchers have used two
different systems for marking picture or page numbers. One system uses
1a and 1b for left and right pages. The other system numbers pages
without regard to left-right position. Here are the correspondences
between the two systems:
1 1 6a 9 11 17
2a 2 6b 10 12a 18
2b 3 7 11 12b 19
3a 4 8 12 13a 20
3b 5 9a 13 13b 21
4a 6 9b 14 14a 22
4b 7 10a 15 14b 23
5 8 10b 16 15 24
Here is a brief page-by-page description of the pictures in Frog, Where
Are You? by Mercer Mayer (1969). The pictures from the book and
additional guidelines from Berman and Slobin can be found in
The data from Berkeley, Israel, Germany, and Rome were collected in the
context of a project directed by Dan I. Slobin and Ruth A. Berman with
support from the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation
(Grant 2732/82), the Linguistics Program of the National Science
Foundation (Grant BNS-8520008), the Sloan Foundation Program in
Cognitive Science, the Institute of Human Development at UC Berkeley,
the Committee on Research of the Academic Senate at UC Berkeley, and the
Max-Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. The Turkish data were
gathered with support from the Bogazici University Research Fund
(Project No. 86 B 0724). The Swedish project was supported by a Swedish
Tercenary Foundation grant to Sven Strömqvist (Riksbankens
Jubileumsfond, grant 91-231:01). The collection of the English corpus
from Wolf and Hemphill was supported by a Program Project grant from NIH
on the “Foundations of Language Assessment.” The data from Miami were
collected in conjunction with the Bilingualism Study Group Literacy
Grant, supported by NIH Grant #1R01 HD 30762-01 to D. Kimbrough Oller
and Rebecca Eilers.
- Page 1: A boy and his dog are in the boy’s bedroom admiring a smiling frog in a glass jar. The moon can be seen through an open window. The boy is in his pajamas, his boots are at the foot of the bed and his clothes are on the floor.
- Page 2: The boy and the dog are asleep in the boy’s bed. The frog is climbing out of the jar.
- Page 3: It is now morning. The boy and the dog are awake and have observed that the frog is missing.
- Page 4: The boy is looking in one of his boots for the frog while the dog has stuck his head in the frog’s jar.
- Page 5: The boy and the dog are looking out the window (the reader sees the building exterior). The boy looks like he is calling out something (i.e., both hands are by his mouth, which is open). The glass jar is stuck on the dog’s head.
- Page 6: The dog is falling out the window and the boy looks puzzled.
- Page 7: The boy has come outside and is holding the dog. The jar has broken and pieces are lying on the ground. The boy has a scowl on his face and the dog is licking the boy’s cheek.
- Pages 8 & 9 (one picture): The boy is calling (i.e., both hands are by his mouth, which is open) and the dog is sniffing with his nose in the air. In the distance is a forest. A beehive is hanging in a tree by the edge of the forest and bees can be seen flying from it.
- Page 10: The boy is calling (i.e., one hand is by his mouth, which is open) down a hole in the ground while the dog is jumping up toward the beehive.
- Page 11: A small ground rodent, such as a ground squirrel or gopher, has popped out of the hole. The boy is holding his nose and looking unhappy. The dog is still jumping up toward the beehive.
- Page 12 & 13 (one picture): The beehive has fallen out of the tree and angry bees are swarming. The boy is sitting on a branch of a large tree exploring a hole in the tree.
- Page 14 & 15 (one picture): An owl, with open wings, has come out of the hole and the boy has fallen on the ground. The bees are chasing the dog.
- Page 16: The boy is running away from the owl. In the background is a large boulder. Branches of trees can be seen behind it.
- Page 17: The boy has climbed to the top of the boulder and is calling (i.e., one hand is by his mouth, which is open). He is holding a branch of a tree. The dog can be seen slinking toward the boulder. His tail is between his legs.
- Page 18: What appeared to be branches are, in fact, the antlers of a deer. The boy can be seen draped over the deer’s head.
- Page 19: The deer is walking, with the boy on his head, toward a cliff. The dog is chasing the deer.
- Page 20: The deer has tipped the boy over the edge of the cliff and the dog has apparently fallen off the cliff. Both the boy and the dog are in the midst of falling into a marshy pond.
- Page 21: The boy and the dog have fallen head first into the water with a splash. Only their legs are visible.
- Page 22: The boy is sitting in the water and the dog is sitting on the boy’s shoulder looking over his head. The boy is holding his hand to his ear and smiling, as if he has heard something.
- Page 23: The boy is kneeling beside a large log. The dog is swimming toward him. The boy is holding one finger to his mouth (i.e., gesture indicating a need for silence).
- Page 24: The boy and the dog are looking over the log. The reader observes them from the back and does not know what they are seeing.
- Page 25: The boy and the dog are sitting on the log and are looking at a mother and father frog – one or the other may be the frog that escaped. The frogs are snuggled together and smiling
- Page 26: The frogs’ children emerge from tall grasses on the right. The adult frogs have proud smiles on their faces as they look at their children. The boy and the dog are sitting on the log. The boy is smiling.
- Page 27s & 28: The boy and the dog are leaving. The boy has a small frog in his hand and is waving at the frog family, which is sitting on the big log.
For a full description of the data collection methods, codes, and
analyses followed in most of these studies, please consult this basic
work that should also be cited in publications using these data:
Berman, R. A., & Slobin, D. I. (1994). Relating events in narrative: A crosslinguistic developmental study. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Mayer, M. (1969). Frog, where are you? New York: Dial Press.