NLA Stage 4

The transition to Stage 4 has been pre-empted many times already on this website, particularly in our last videos about Stage 3. Since GLPs are already ‘delayed’ in their language development, our natural tendency is to rush ahead and try to ‘catch them up.’ But as you know by now, that is impossible, and we never want to revert to some form of prompting or teaching in the misguided hope that it is possible. In truth, such an unnatural tactic will simply delay the process they have worked so hard to be a part of.

Gestalt language development is a continuous process, and just because Stage 4 is about grammar, it is no exception. It’s not as if GLPs have now ‘arrived’ in a place where they can just catch up. They are still GLPs, and the idea of constructing sentences with building blocks is all brand new. They have no template so far, so we want to give them one — one that is developmental in nature, flexible in application, and foolproof in its foundational support for sentences.

Stage 4 naturally begins with ‘pre-sentences,’ that is grammar that isn’t directly about making sentences but rather about making meaning. This grammar is about relationships, relationships among concepts and words that we call ‘semantic relationships.’ Developmental Sentence Types (DST) is a research-based tool that provides a foundation for those relationships, and many of out stories in NLA Supports help us explore how to use DST in Stage 4.

You don’t have to be a grammarian to feel confident at this stage. We have done the work for you, with all of the ‘cheat sheets’ you need in English, and hints at those in the other languages represented by the handouts in the International thread. The premise of DST is that a full grammar represent ‘types’ of sentences, each of which needs time and nurturing to grow authentically. In other words, sentences don’t grow like “My + brother + ‘s + name + is + Paul.” They grow from these foundational relationships: brother + Paul; name + Paul; my + brother; name + is. DST outlines all those relationships plus more, and when you read it over, you will recognize all the 2 and 3-word combinations little ALPs in your life have said. Now your GLP gets to say them too! Once you realize how natural they are, you can relax into playing with DST combos together.

The prize will be how 2 and 3-word combos then morph seamlessly into little sentences! It just happens… “Brother name Paul” and “Paul my bother” and “Paul’s name” grows into “Brother name is Paul” and “Brother my name is,” with the common features of Stage 4 grammar being experimental, incomplete, and inaccurate! It’s important that Stage 4 is that way. Variety is important. Accuracy and consistency are not! They will come later, at Stage 5.

Developmental Sentence Scoring (DSS) will be your companion at Stages 4-6, once your child has experienced all that DST has to offer. Stage 4 brings your GLP all the basic pronouns, basic present tense verbs, basic past tense verbs, basic future tense verbs, basic question forms (reversals like ‘Is it?’) and beginning Wh-question forms (Who, what, where, how much, how many), and the conjunction ‘and.’ At the end of Stage 4, GLPs can say basic sentences such as, ‘We all had ice cream at the zoo, and then Nolan went home with his mom.’ Wow!! Think about it!


Ereeni, Nellie, and Marge introduce Stage 4 as a natural extension of the word + word combinations gestalt language processors discover at Stage 3. We also introduce Developmental Sentence Types (DST) is a tool that illustrates how children naturally develop different ‘types’ of early phrases. Ereeni shares a case example in which a student created an original story with utterances like, “Oh no staircase broken everywhere,” illustrating the possibilities once phrases and sentences can be generated ‘from scratch.’ We aren’t looking at correct sentences yet…but that will come as Stage 4 continues — and morphs into Stage 5. Stay tuned!