Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Behavioral language interventions, such as those employed in early and intensive behavioral intervention (EIBI) programs, target both expressive and receptive language skills. Skinner's (1957) analysis of verbal behavior provides a framework for analyzing expressive and receptive language in terms of stimulus control and reinforcement history. From this perspective, different expressive language programs target different verbal operants, such as tacts, intraverbals, and echoics , whereas most receptive language programs target a type of listener behavior that may be referred to as manded stimulus selection (Michael, 1995). Although EIBI curricula (e.g., Maurice, Green, & Luce, 1996; Leaf & McEachin, 1999) have frequently recommended teaching receptive before expressive skills, the empirical literature suggests that the reverse sequence may sometimes be more efficient. Specifically, tact training may be more likely to generate anemergent listener repertoire than listener training to generate an emergent tact repertoire. Less is known about the extent to which a similar relation holds forintraverbals and listener behavior, even though the sequencing of intraverbal and listener training is a consideration in many language training programs, such as those that teach various categorization skills.

The purpose of the present study was to provide an evaluation of both intraverbal and listener categorization training on untrained categorization skills. Theevaluation was conducted with six typically developing 3-year-old children, who learned to categorize previously unfamiliar stimuli (i.e., characters from foreign writing systems, outline maps of foreign countries). No emergence of untrained categorization skills was observed among three children who received listener training, and untrained skills did not emerge reliably among three other children who received intraverbal training. These results are in line with the notion, suggested by Skinner's (1957) analysis, that listener and speaker repertoires may be functionally independent of one another. From an applied perspective, additional research is needed on how to most efficiently sequence language training programs that incorporate the training of both intraverbal and listenerrelations, and basic research on the establishment of topography-based verbal relations also appears warranted.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access