Diagnostic Evaluation of Language Variation™ - Norm-Referenced
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Diagnostic Evaluation of Language Variation™ - Norm-Referenced
(DELV™ — Norm-Referenced)


Overview: Diagnose speech and language disorders

Age Range: 4 through 9 years

Completion Time: 45 to 50 minutes

Norms: U.S. general population, demographically adjusted

Scores/Interpretation: Domain Scaled Scores in Syntax; Pragmatics, Semantics; and Phonology, Composite Standard Score, Percentile Ranks, Age Equivalents

Publication Date: 2005


Product Details

DELV Deeper into Underlying Language Knowledge

The Diagnostic Evaluation of Language Variation™ (DELV™) family of products paves the way for the language assessment of all children including those children who are speakers of dialects other than Mainstream American English (MAE). The DELV—Norm Referenced standardization represented all ethnic groups based on 2000 U.S. Census. Use our DELV Screening Test and DELV Norm Referenced language test individually or in combination to provide a comprehensive language assessment.

The DELV Family of products was developed by leading experts in the field and has been funded in part with federal funds from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, National Institutes of Health, under Contract No. N01_DC-8-2104 and Grant #R01DC 02172-04.

“I've never found an assessment tool like DELV. This is the only commercially available instrument that looks at the non-contrastive shared language features of children.”

Sharon Gaskin
Diagnostician, Speech/Language Programs
Tampa, FL

Features & Benefits

DELV-Norm-Referenced is what you have been waiting for!

  • Focuses not only on what the child doesn’t know, but also identifies what a child understands to guide in intervention planning
  • Assesses narrative skills important to literacy
  • Specifically designed to eliminate dialect responses completely, DELV-NR identifies children who have a language disorder
  • Provides demographically adjusted norms
  • Easy to administer and score

The DELV family of products helps reduce over-identification of minority children receiving speech and language services and aligns with ASHA’s Position Statement on Social Dialects.

Areas of Assessment

Innovative, Groundbreaking, and Essential

The only language test that neutralizes the effect that dialects have on children's language test scores. Use our DELV Screening Test and DELV Norm-Referenced Language Test individually or in combination to provide a comprehensive assessment.

To distinguish disordered patterns of speech and language, the DELV assess a child’s knowledge of those aspects of speech and language that are non-contrastive, meaning they are common across varieties of American English so they are less likely to lead to the misidentification of language difference as language disorder.

Also, because the research study sample comprised children of different races and ethnicities who spoke many varieties of American English, the DELV line of assessments is based on information gathered on the most culturally and linguistically diverse population to date.

DELV Norm-Referenced evaluates Syntax, Pragmatics, Semantics, and Phonology


DELV Development History

The University of Massachusetts Working Groups on AAE was awarded a six-year multi-million dollar NIH contract in 1998 to develop a standardized language assessment tool that distinguished between variations of mainstream American English and actual speech or language disorders. Offering extensive experience in child language development from Communication Disorders, Linguistics, and Psychology, Drs Harry Seymour, Tom Roeper, Jill de Villiers, with contributions from Peter de Villiers, were the lead researchers on the project.

The UMass Working Groups on AAE collaborated with Pearson in the development and publication of DELV.

According to Dr. Harry Seymour, the relationship between Pearson and the UMass Research team, “brings together an exceptionally qualified group to develop a valid and reliable instrument to test speech and language disorders in African-American children.”

For more in-depth understanding of the development goals and to read more about the parties involved in the process, click on any of the following links:

NIH Contract NO1-DC8-2104 (pdf)

AAE UMass Newsletter (pdf)

Pearson 2003 Press Release (PDF - 90kb)

DELV Product Support Materials

For additional information regarding the research, development, administration, and interpretation, click on any of the resources below…

E-papers (pdf)

Posters and Presentations

References (PDF - 115kb)



ASHA Resources

To remain current with language assessment research and to understand the direction the profession is moving, take advantage of these convenient ASHA resources….
Students and Professionals Who Speak English With Accents and Nonstandard Dialects: Issues and Recommendations Technical Report
ASHA Joint H60Subcommittee of the Executive Board on English Language Proficiency

Difference or deficit in speakers of African American English: What every clinician should know…and do
Dr. Linda M. Bland-Stewart, in the May 3, 2005 issue of ASHA Leader

For more information on ASHA, click here to access its website.

Customer Testimonial about DELV:

"I’ve never found an assessment tool like DELV. This is the only commercially available instrument that looks at the non-contrastive shared language features of children."

Sharon Gaskin
Diagnostician, Speech/Language Programs- Tampa, FL

Technical Reports

DELV - Technical Report (PDF - 452 kb)
DELV - Criterion Referenced Case Study (PDF - 308 kb)
DELV - Norm Referenced Case Studies (PDF - 558 kb)
DELV - Screening Test Case Studies (PDF - 1443 kb)

To read more about the authors’ enthusiasm for the project, click on either of the following links:

Interview with the authors, 1999 Ciolli, Lois. “Getting to Know… Drs. Harry Seymour, Thomas Roeper, and Jill de Villiers.” Clinicians’ Forum vol. 9 #2 (Fall 1999): p. 5.

UMass AAE Website


  • DELV webinar

    DELVing Deeper: Language Disorder or Dialect? Click here to download.




Frequently asked questions follow. Click on a question to see the response.

Test Content

  • Is this test only for black/African American children?

    No. DELV is a language assessment tool that is sensitive to the linguistic and cultural differences represented by many African American children, but is as effective an assessment tool for children of other races/ethnicities as it is for African American children. The research foundation for the DELV was motivated by funding from the NIH to develop a language assessment test that would be fair to African American children who do not speak Mainstream American English (MAE).

  • Is this an Ebonics test?

    No. DELV focuses on language structures that are common to all children of English speaking backgrounds regardless of the particular variety of English they speak.

  • How do you determine which children should take DELV?

    There are three versions of the DELV, the DELV-Screening Test and the DELV-Criterion Referenced test and the DELV- Norm Referenced Test. The DELV-Screening Test has two components, a screening for language variation status and a screening for language disorders risk status. It is an excellent tool for screening to determine whether children speak Mainstream American English (MAE) or some variation of MAE, and whether they may be at risk for a language disorder or not. The DELV-Criterion Referenced (Criterion Reference cut scores are provided) and Norm Referenced (Scaled Scores are provided) editions are complete and comprehensive diagnostic language tests. Although any child entering school can be and perhaps should be given the DELV-Screening Test, it is particularly appropriate for English speaking children suspected of having a problem with speech and language, and/or, for gathering information about a child’s MAE status. Children who perform below a specified cut off score on the diagnostic portion of DELV-Screening Test are candidates for the DELV-Criterion Referenced or Norm Referenced test.

  • Does this label a child?

    If a child performs below the specified cut off point on both the DELV-Screening Test and the DELV-Criterion Referenced test, it is appropriate that the child be provided clinical services. The label associated with this special needs assignment is appropriate and unavoidable. An important quality of the DELV is that it reduces the unfortunate mislabeling of children as language disordered when they are not. As for the potential label associated with being designated as speaking a variety of English that is not MAE, the extent to which such a designation is pejorative is directly related to educators’ understanding that non-MAE varieties are not disorders but are legitimate reflections of children’s language communities. The DELV will play an important role in fostering that understanding.

  • What is Mainstream American English (MAE)?

    MAE is more or less an abstract notion about language prestige and is not a specific language entity. It is characteristic of the variety of English most used in the conduct of commerce and that language which is fostered in the schools as most acceptable. It can vary somewhat from one region of the country to another. There is an MAE spoken in Boston that sounds different from the MAE of Mississippi. Yet, both are considered mainstream since they represent the “mainstream” of those respective communities.

  • If a child is screened and it is determined that they do not speak a variation of MAE, but do have a disorder, what test should the Speech Language Pathologist proceed with? DELV or CELF?

    This should not necessarily be an either or decision. Although both the DELV and the CELF are tests of language, they test different language functions. The CELF is a widely used assessment tool for MAE speaking children and is likely to remain so. However, the DELV also has proven to be an effective assessment tool for MAE. A clinician’s choice of one over the other, or even both, should be determined by the clinical information he/she wishes to obtain about a child. CELF provides the user with norms for receptive and expressive language, as well as a total score. The DELV, on the other hand, assesses several domains of language and is one of the few tests of language that integrates pragmatics with syntax, semantics and phonology. Hence, the DELV diagnostic profile of the child can be a comprehensive one.

  • Does this indicate that CELF is not a good test for children who speak a variation of MAE?

    As noted above, it depends on the extent to which children vary from MAE. For example, many African American children speak a variety of English that contrasts sufficiently from MAE in ways that can adversely affect their performance on tests that are normed on a population of primarily MAE speakers. Therefore, DELV would be the preferred instrument.

  • Are children going to be deprived of special education as a result of this test?

    We should reserve limited resources and special educational expertise for those who truly qualify for special education because of a disability. Simply speaking a variety of English other than MAE does not qualify a child as disabled.


  • What do you do with a child who speaks a variation from MAE, but doesn’t have a disability?

    Historically, such children would either be misdiagnosed as special needs or ignored. There are very few programs to transition children to MAE language patterns. Any efforts to support these types of programs should do so provided the children are not made to feel that their home English patterns are deficient and inadequate. In fact, the DELV-Screening Test can be a useful tool for identifying children for whom MAE is not their dominant language profile. Once identified, efforts can be made throughout the curriculum to assure that non-MAE language patterns are not obstacles to progress. An important area for such attention would be reading.

Pricing & Ordering

Order Components

Manual Scoring
  • Manuals



  • DELV Norm-Referenced Examiner's Manual
  • Administration Materials



  • DELV NR Stimulus Book

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