Objective: Preterm children with low birth weight are at greater risk of experiencing speech and language difficulties than full-term children. The aim of the current study was to investigate expressive language skills of Finnish-speaking preterm children with low birth weight [extremely-low-birth-weight (ELBW) children: n = 8; very-low-birth-weight (VLBW) children: n = 10] at 2 years of corrected age and to compare their language results with full-term controls (n = 18), using spontaneous speech samples. Methods: The children were video recorded in semistructured free-play sessions with their mothers. From these video samples, expressive vocabulary size and maximum sentence length (MSL) were analyzed. In addition, the possible effect of children's gender on language measures as well as associations between different language measures were examined. Results: The results showed that there was no statistically significant difference between the preterm and full-term groups in the size of expressive vocabulary. In contrast, the MSL, which measures morphosyntactic skills, was significantly shorter in preterm children. A positive correlation was found between MSL and expressive vocabulary. Children's gender was not associated with language skills measured. Conclusion: The findings indicate that Finnish-speaking preterm children, especially ELBW children, experience difficulties in morphosyntactic skills.
Maternal responsive and directive speech to children at ages 0;10 and 2;0 was investigated by applying a procedure first introduced by Flynn and Masur (2007) to a new language community (Finnish). The issues examined were consistency and stability over time, and also the role of responsiveness and directiveness in child linguistic development at 1;0 and 2;6. The measures of maternal speech from each age were used to predict the results of the subsequent linguistic assessment. Negative correlations between responsive and directive utterances were found at both ages. The frequencies of responsive utterances and supportive directives increased over time. Responsiveness was positively, and intrusive directiveness negatively, related to child early comprehensive skills and the use of symbolic actions and communicative gestures. By contrast, no relations were found between responsiveness and directiveness and children's later linguistic capacities.