Menu Close

Master class

With Catherine Renfrew

The Renfrew Action Picture Test developed by Catherine Renfrew in 1967 seeks to elicit very particular sorts of response from a series of prompts and pictures. “Tell me about this picture” requires a response comprising a full sentence with an obviously necessary subject like “She fell over and broke her glasses”. Questions with a Wh morpheme such as what allow a ‘fragmentary’ or ‘eliptical’ answer’ consisting in what is now known, in the framework here, as a ‘vP’. But the responses also involve past tense forms like fell and broke. Thus the test is particularly sensitive to the child’s ability to manipulate these two pivotal and closely linked aspects of ‘universal grammar’. By the proposal here, the outlines of this are defined in eight steps typically taken between about one and three. But the rest of the acquisition process, gradually integrating these steps with one another, normally takes another seven or so years. The genius of the test lies partly in the fact that the notion of Universal Grammar was only just starting to emerge when the test was developed and published and partly in the fact that it is deeply revealing, simple to administer and score, and fun for children.

Do you have an enquiry?