Sentence Repetition Task for LSF

Purpose of the test

In psycholinguistics and clinical linguistics, the Sentence Repetition Task (SRT) is known to be a valuable tool to screen general language abilities in both spoken and signed languages. This task enables users to reliably and quickly assess linguistic abilities at different levels of linguistic analysis such as phonology, morphology, lexicon, and syntax.  Since the 1970s, the Sentence Repetition Task (SRT) has frequently been used in spoken language assessment (Slobin & Welsh, 1971; Naiman, 1974), and has proven efficient for measuring children’s linguistic abilities in various populations (e.g., native speakers, second-language learners, bilinguals, children, adults with language disorders, socioeconomically disadvantaged individuals). The SRT is also known to be a reliable clinical marker of language impairment (Bley-Vroman et al., 1994; Conti-Ramsden et al., 2001; Chiat et al., 2013; Bishop et al., 1996; Bishop et al., 2009; Riches et al., 2010; Marshall et al., 2014).

Concretely, the task involves repeating a sentence produced by a speaker (experimenter, teacher, etc.). The participant’s repetition (or recall) should be as similar as possible to the sentence produced by the speaker. Once the sentence has been recalled, error types can be analyzed, thereby providing information about the level of language analysis that may disturbed. These errors are divided into phonological errors, omissions, substitutions, and deletions.

As in spoken languages, errors in an SRT conducted in a sign language also constitute a reliable indicator of normal and delayed acquisition at linguistic levels of analysis (phonology, morphology, syntax, lexicon). Therefore, the SRT is viewed as a valuable screening tool for language disabilities. Moreover, it has several advantages: it is quick and easy to administer; it tests explicit, precisely specified linguistic structures; and it is not too time-consuming for professionals who have to assess and score in addition to teaching or providing therapy. Although the SRT has proven to be a good tool for detecting delays or disorders in language development, no SRT study had previously been done on French Sign Language (LSF) development in deaf children. To fill this gap, we designed a behavioral experiment in LSF using this task with deaf children. Our goal was to study language development in LSF at different levels of analysis (phonological and morphosyntactic development, lexical knowledge) as a function of age of SL acquisition (AOA) and chronological age (CA) using an SRT.

With the LSF-SRT, we provide a new LSF screening tool for the clinical, educative and scientific communities. Our work is the first contribution to investigate the development of LSF in a large cohort of deaf children and showed that this test can capture the influences of Chronological Age and Age Of Acquisition (native or late sign language acquisition), and thus it can be considered a screening task to measure overall SL ability. It can be viewed as a valuable screening tool for language disabilities.


Age group targets

The LSF SRT is intended for children as young as 6 years old and up to adults, for both native (included CODA) and late deaf signers. May be of interest to test Second Language Acquisition abilities (L2 hearing signers).

This test has been offered to 4- and 5-year-old. According to the group of signers, simple sentences were passed but intermediate and complex sentences were failed by kindergarten-aged children.



Fig 1. Sentences with four levels of complexity (Bogliotti et al., 2020)
Video 1: Example of the SRT for LSF (Bogliotti et al., 2020)


Content of the test

The test covered lexical, phonological and morphosyntactic linguistic areas. There is a lively debate concerning what abilities are needed to recall a sentence and what kind of capacities a repetition task assesses, and in particular whether memory or language processes are most involved in an SRT.

SRT ability depends as much on language as on memory. The first concerns the evidence that all language levels are involved in the repetition process. As soon as a speaker hears/sees the sentence to be repeated, he she builds a conceptual representation. This conceptual representation relies on several memory and linguistic processes to recall the sentence: sensorimotor processes (speech-sign perception and speech-sign production), phonological representations, lexical knowledge, and grammatical encoding. Another argument in favor of the strong involvement of language skills concerns the complexity of the structures assessed: if the sentence reaches a certain length or structural complexity threshold, mere imitation is not sufficient, and robust linguistic representations are crucial. In addition, some researchers have pointed out, repetition ability also depends on the speaker or signer’s familiarity with the assessed language. Repetition of a two-sign sentence is easy for young signer children, non-fluent signers, and even non-signers, because repetition can be based on mimicking gestural components and not just on linguistic components. But repeating a syntactically complex sentence in sign language requires robust linguistic representations and good phonological and working memory abilities (Naiman, 1974; Marshall et al., 2015; Acheson et al., 2009).


Background of the test

To create our LSF sentences, we initially relied on Rinaldi et al. (2018) corpus (SignMet Project). We adapted the Italian version of the SRT thanks to deaf native signers to create a culturally and linguistically well-designed pool of LSF sentences. The LIS-SRT has been created from the BSL SRT (Cormier et al., 2012; Marshall et al., 2015).



Our results provide partial support for the validity of the LSF-SRT, as reflected by the different significant effects of Chronological Age and Age of Acquisition (AOA). However, we will not formulate firm conclusions about the validity issue until additional data from further studies are at hand.


Administration of the test

The SRT in LSF consisted of 20 sentences, which were selected from a pilot study in which two deaf adults assessed the initial pool of 35 LSF sentences based on their naturalness. Four criteria were taken into consideration in satisfying naturalness: (1) grammaticality, (2) plausibility, (3) age-matched semantic content, and (4) saliency of signs for display on screen. The sentences varied in length and syntactic complexity. Given that length is not the sole marker of structural complexity in sign language, several short sentences included complex morphosyntactic structures such as (1) classifiers, (2) dual predications, and (3) use of the non-dominant hand to maintain reference in the signing space. Note that long sentences may contain only simple morphosyntactic structures.

The lexical items chosen were those that any deaf child was likely to be familiar with. The sign rate was designed to be adapted to children’s perception and recognition, and facial expressions were present but not strongly emphasized. All the sentences were checked in our team composed of deaf speakers and deaf and hearing linguists. One LSF speaker signed the instructions that were given prior to the experiment as well as the 20 sentences constituting the SRT. Post-experiment interviews revealed that the task was not considered too easy or too difficult.

The current version takes 15 minutes to administer. The length of scoring depends on the needs of coder. If the coder needs to count the rate of lexical errors, the scoring will be faster than the coder needs an accurate scoring of phonological errors. A scoring manual and a scoring grid is provided with the test. During the creation of the tool, we wanted to ensure that the assessment tool be easy to administer and to score for all the professionals who will use it (i.e., speech therapists, researchers, teachers and specialist teachers, sign language teachers) in all test situations (i.e., school, speech therapy, L2 sign language courses).

In our study, we used the immediate recall procedure, but it would be possible to propose the SRT in a delayed recall procedure.




The LSF-SRT has been developed during the SignMet Project (Sign Language: Methodologies and Evaluation Tools.

We wish to thank all the deaf people who collaborated with us in order to produce well-formed LSF sentences and tested the children with us: Hatice Aksen, Celine Fortuna, Saliha Heouaine, Yves Prud’homme, and Clémentine Caron. We would also like to thank Aliyah Morgenstern for coordinating the French part of the SignMet project, as well as the researchers and PhD students who helped us to collect the data: Laetitia Puissant-Schontz, Anaïs Lisette, Anna Safar, Marion Blondel, and Stephanie Caët. Thanks to Vanessa Andrieu and Marie-Paule Kerrelhas, deaf teachers in Ramonville Saint-Agne, the teachers and speech therapists of the CRA (Hearing Rehabilitation Centre, Rouen) and CELEM (Language Education Centre for Hard of Hearing Children, Paris




Summarized by Caroline Bogliotti (2022).


For more information regarding this test, please contact  Caroline Bogliotti at Université Paris Nanterre, France and MODYCO Lab.