Skip to main content Accessibility help

Linguistic performance in children who develop schizophrenia in adult life: Evidence for normal syntactic ability

  • D. John Done (a1), Eeva Leinonen (a2), Timothy J. Crow (a3) and Amanda Sacker (a4)



Less syntactically complex speech in patients with schizophrenia has been thought to represent a premorbid dysfunction, of possible prognostic value and indicative of a neurodevelopmental origin for schizophrenia.


Narratives written at age 11 by children who then developed psychiatric disorders in adult life (using PSE CATEGO diagnoses), especially schizophrenia, were compared with matched controls on syntactic complexity syntactic maturity, grammatical deviance and spelling ability.


Children who later developed either schizophrenia, affective psychosis or a neurotic type of disorder in adulthood did not differ from normal controls on any of the measures of syntactic production, grammatical errors or spelling.


it is probable that previous reports of reduced syntactic complexity in schizophrenic speech are a consequence of being in a psychotic state and do not represent a premorbid deficit.


Corresponding author

D. J. Done. Department of Psychology. University of Hertfordshire. Hatfield. Hertfordshire AL10 9AB


Hide All
Chaika, E. J. & Alexander, P. (1986) The ice cream stories: a study in normal and psychotic narrations. Discourse Processes, 9, 305328.
Child, D. (1979) The Essentials of Factor Analysis. London: Holt. Rinehart & Winston.
Cohen, B. (1978) Referent communication disturbances in schizophrenia. In Language and Cognition in Schizophrenia (ed. Schwartz, J.). Hillsdale. NJ: Erlbaum.
Cozolino, L. J. (1983) The oral and written productions of schizophrenic patients. Progress in Experimental Research, 12, 101152.
Crowhurst, M. (1979) On the interpretation of syntactic complexity data. English Education, 11. 9197
Crystal, D. Fletcher, P. & Garman, M. (1989) Grammatical Analysis of Language Disability (2nd edn). London: Whurr.
Done, D. J. Johnstone, E. C. Frith, C. D. et al (1991) Complications of pregnancy and delivery in relation to psychosis in adult life: data from the British perinatal mortality survey sample. British Medical Journal, 302, 15761580.
Done, D. J. Crow, T. J. Johnstone, E. C. et al (1994) Childhood antecedents of schizophrenia and affective illness: social adjustment at ages 7 and 11. British Medical Journal, 309. 699703.
Douglas, J. W. B. (1964) The Home and School: A Study of Ability and Attainment in the Primary School. London: Macgibbon and Kee.
Fraser, W. I. King, K. M. Thomas, P. et al (1986) The diagnosis of schizophrenia by language analysis. British Journal of Psychiatry, 148, 275278.
Fromkin, V. (1975) A linguist looks at “A linguist looks at ‘schizophrenic’ language”. Brain and Language. 2. 498503.
Gooch, S. & Pringle, M. L. K. (1966) Four Years On. London: Longman.
Gottesman, I. I. & Shields, J. (1982) Schizophrenia: the Epigenetic Puzzle. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Harrel, L. E. (1957) A comparison of the development of oral and written language in school age children. Monograph of the Society for Research in Child Development, 22.
Hoffman, R. E. & Sledge, W. (1988) An analysis of grammatical deviance occurring in spontaneous schizophrenic speech. Journal of Neurolinguistics, 3, 89101.
Hunt, K. W. (1970) Syntactic maturity in school children and adults. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development. 35, 114.
Jablensky, A. Sartorius, N. Ernberg, G. et al (1982) Schizophrenia: manifestations, incidence and course in different cultures. A WHO ten-country study Psychological Medicine Monograph Supplement, 20.
LaBrant, L. (1933) A study of certain language developments of children in Grades 4–12 inclusive. Genetic Psychology Monographs, 14, 387491.
Lecours, A. R. & Vanier-Clement, M. (1976) Schizophasia and jargonaphasia. Brain and Language, 3, 516565.
Manschreck, T. C. Maher, B. A. & Adler, D. N. (1981) Formal thought disorder, the type-token ratio and disturbed voluntary motor movement in schizophrenia. British Journal of Psychiatry, 139, 715.
Manschreck, T. C. Ames, D. Maher, B. A. et al (1987) Impoverished written responses and negative features of schizophrenia. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 64, 11631169.
McCreadie, R. G. (1982) The Nithsdale Schizophrenia Survey I. Psychiatric and Social h andicaps. British Journal of Psychiatry, 140, 582586.
Morice, R. D. & Ingram, J. C. (1982) Language analysis in schizophrenia: diagnostic implications. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 16, 1121.
Morice, R.D. & Ingram, J.C. (1983) Language, complexity and age of onset of schizophrenia. Psychiatry Research, 9, 233242.
O'Donnell, R. C. (1976) A critique of sonne indices of syntactic maturity Research in the Teaching of English, 10, 3138.
O'Donnell, R. C. Griffin, W. J. & Norris, R. C. (1967) The Syntax of Kindergarten and Elementary School Children: A Transformational Analysis. Illinois: National Council of Teachers of English.
Richardson, K. C. Calnan, M. Essen, J. et al (1976) The linguistic maturity of 11-year-olds: some analysis of the written compositions of children in the National Child Development Study. Journal of Child Language. 3, 99115.
Shallice, T. (1991) From Neuropsychology to Mental Structure, pp. 174182. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Thomas, P. King, K. Fraser, W. I. et al (1990) Linguistic performance in schizophrenia: a comparison of acute and chronic patients. British Journal of Psychiatry, 156, 204210.
Thomas, P. Kearney, G. Napier, E. et al (1996) Speech and language in first onset psychosis. Differences between people with schizophrenia, mania and controls. British Journal of Psychiatry, 168, 337343.
Veness, T. (1962) School Leavers. London: Methuen.


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed

Linguistic performance in children who develop schizophrenia in adult life: Evidence for normal syntactic ability

  • D. John Done (a1), Eeva Leinonen (a2), Timothy J. Crow (a3) and Amanda Sacker (a4)
Submit a response


No eLetters have been published for this article.


Reply to: Submit a response

Your details

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *