Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Lee Branum-Martin


Existing language assessments and theories of language development assume a clear division into receptive and expressive processes. However, measurement studies provide only mixed support for this structure of language–some studies support the division of language into dual processes of expressive and receptive language while other studies conclude that language is a single process. The Preschool Language Scale – 5 (PLS-5, Zimmerman, Steiner, & Pond, 2011) is a commonly administered assessment used for diagnostic and research purposes and thus, the psychometric properties should be well-established. The PLS-5 is one of only a few assessments to cover the age range of birth to seven years old, meaning it is useful for research on longitudinal language development in addition to the recommended clinical use. This study uses PLS-5 data collected from 2014 to 2017 at urban childcare centers serving primarily low SES African American children to address two research questions: 1) to what extent does a confirmatory factor model support the division of language into receptive and expressive language components? 2) what does this structure of language say about how students grow in preschool? The results of the longitudinal confirmatory factor analyses suggest that language is a general construct rather than divided by modality, and thus the total language score on the PLS-5 may be preferable to interpreting the individual subscale scores of Expressive Communication and Auditory Comprehension.