MAIN: Multilingual Assessment Instrument for Narratives

MAIN is part of LITMUS Language Impairment Testing in Multilingual Settings. LITMUS is a battery of tests which was being developed as a result of COST Action IS0804 Language Impairment in a Multilingual Society: Linguistic Patterns and the Road to Assessment. Financial support by COST is hereby gratefully acknowledged.

Addendum  (27 May 2019)

Important information concerning MAIN - Revised

Ute Bohnacker & Natalia Gagarina

In 2019, we are launching Revised versions of MAIN for 5 languages: English, German, Russian, Swedish and Turkish. These contain updated MAIN scoring sheets and considerably expanded lists of correct and incorrect responses for production and comprehension of macrostructure. These revisions are based on our empirical database of more than 2,500 transcribed MAIN narratives as well as 24,000 responses to comprehension questions from cross-sectional and longitudinal data. The revised versions of MAIN are available in ZASPiL 62.

This Revised version in English also serves as a base for new language adaptations which are available in ZASPiL 64. The Revised version in English should also serve as a base for any other language adaptations of MAIN.

Addendum  (20 December 2016)

Statement concerning the use of MAIN and reporting research based on MAIN (Multilingual Assessment Instrument of Narratives)

Ute Bohnacker, Daleen Klop, Natalia Gagarina, Sari Kunnari & Täina Välimaa


As members of the MAIN author core group, we would like to inform current and prospective MAIN users about what you need to bear in mind when using MAIN, as well as about new developments.



Whilst MAIN is in the public domain and accessible via the website (, Gagarina et al. 2012), every user must adhere to the copyright and licensing rules that are stated there. Breaching these rules compromises the integrity of MAIN as a tool.

Since the launch of MAIN on the website in mid-2013, user information has been updated several times. Also, some of the language versions of MAIN have been revised and corrected, based on user reports, research findings and cross-version checks. Please do not circulate or use old versions of MAIN that are not on the website. In particular, it is not acceptable to circulate or use old (pre-2012) pilot versions of MAIN, as these are no longer valid. Current and prospective users should regularly check the MAIN website for revisions and updates.

Everybody seems to like the MAIN pictures, but they should not be misused. The pictures are part and parcel of the MAIN assessment and must not be used for other purposes, as this compromises the integrity of the tool and infringes on licensing and copyright.

Please do not use MAIN without having properly read the instructions (which come with every official language adaptation) as well as the complete text of ZASPiL56 Part I (Gagarina et al. 2012), which explains the rationale behind MAIN, how it was constructed and how it should be used. Improper use of MAIN will lead to incorrect scoring and invalidate your results.



MAIN scoring is not about reaching the maximum score as on a test.

MAIN includes both quantitative and qualitative aspects of evaluating narrative performance. Quantitative scoring in Section A calculates the number of story components produced by the child, with a maximum score of 17. It is important to understand that a low score out of 17 does not necessarily indicate poor narrative ability. The quality of a narrative also depends on the combination of story components. This is assessed in Section B.

·         In Section A (Story structure production), the maximum is 17 points, but do not expect any child to reach 17/17. MAIN provides three opportunities for the child to produce story structure components, but very few children produce all of these.

·         Section B (Story complexity) is derived from Section A. In Section B, combinations of story components are classified in terms of story complexity (episodic structure: sequences, incomplete vs complete episodes).

·         Section C counts internal state terms as tokens. It should be acknowledged that internal state term tokens are not strictly part of macrostructure, but more of a lexical measure. Internal states are also language-specific and their production depends on lexical proficiency, which is why no maximum score can be specified for internal state term tokens.

·         In Section D (Comprehension), 10 questions are asked and a maximum score of 10 points can be obtained. These questions were designed to have different levels of difficulty, so a child is not expected to answer them all equally well. Overall, many children reach high scores in Section D, though it is common for 3-4-year-olds to score low.



MAIN allows different options to elicit narratives. If you report results using MAIN, you need to explain your methodology in detail.

You should always specify the elicitation mode (tell, retell or model story), which story or stories were used (Baby Birds, Baby Goats, Cat or Dog), how MAIN was administered to the child (e.g. presentation mode, non-shared attention), by whom MAIN was administered to the child (e.g. training of experimenter, native speaker, monolingual or bilingual experimenter, number of experimenters in the study and per language), setting (e.g. quiet room at school or preschool, home, lab), time lapse between testings, counterbalancing procedures, recording method.

You need to specify how transcriptions were done, by whom, how they were checked, and how transcription reliability was achieved.

Concerning MAIN scoring, you need to specify your scoring procedure. Any deviations from the MAIN scoring protocol should be reported. Specify how problematic cases were resolved and how scoring reliability was ensured.

You also need to report the statistical analyses you use.


If you present or publish results based on MAIN, cite both

·         Gagarina, Natalia, Klop, Daleen, Kunnari, Sari, Tantele, Koula, Välimaa, Taina, Balčiūnienė, Ingrida, Bohnacker, Ute & Walters, Joel. 2012. MAIN: Multilingual Assessment Instrument for Narratives, ZAS Papers in Linguistics 56. Berlin: ZAS.


·         Gagarina, Natalia, Klop, Daleen, Kunnari, Sari, Tantele, Koula, Välimaa, Taina, Balčiūnienė, Ingrida, Bohnacker, Ute & Walters, Joel. 2015. Assessment of Narrative Abilities in Bilingual Children. In Sharon Armon-Lotem, Jan de Jong & Natalia Meir (eds.), Assessing Multilingual Children, pp. 243-269. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

End of Addendum

The different language versions downloadable at the websites are the official adaptations which were developed within COST Action IS0804 and piloted according to common understanding.

For some languages, the MAIN materials have been recently adapted to fulfil the following requirements: they have been (a) updated to be parallel to the latest English version that was corrected and approved in January 2015, and (b) verified by a process of back-translation by at least three persons proficient in English and the language of adaptation. Please contact the authors cited for each language version if you have questions.

WARNING: Please be advised that some of the language adaptations are based on older versions of MAIN (2012). Please contact the authors cited for each language for further information.

Different authors have been responsible for the individual language adaptations of MAIN, and they have been involved in the materials development process to different degrees. Some language versions were extensively piloted and revised before launching, others were not. Before using MAIN for a particular language, we advise you to contact the authors cited to find out about adaptation/translation, piloting and use of MAIN. In order to evaluate the quality of a particular language version, you might want to find out about the following:


- WHO did the translation/adaptation? Was it done by several people? Were they native speakers? Were they linguists? Were the versions back-translated and compared to the English original? What happened afterwards? When did this process of adaptation take place? Is there any written documentation of this process?


- Was this language version piloted? If yes, what happened after the piloting? Was the version corrected afterwards? Is there any written documentation of this process?


- Has this language version been used? With how many children and which age(s)? How did it work? Are there any (peer-reviewed) publications of the results?

Please fill in this form to download the copyrighted pictures and the MAIN material:


YES, I agree. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work.
Creative Commons License

YES, I agree to use the following citation when using the MAIN: Multilingual Assessment Instrument for Narratives material:
"N.Gagarina, D.Klop, S.Kunnari, K.Tantele, T.Välimaa, I.Balciuniene, U.Bohnacker, J.Walters. MAIN: Multilingual Assessment Instrument for Narratives. © ZAS Papers in Linguistics, 56 (2012)."

YES, I agree not to reproduce the MAIN pictures or scoring sheets in any publication, for copyright reasons.

bilingual/ multilingual
I don't know yet

typical development (TD)
language impairment (LI)
other language and/or communication difficulties (e.g. autism, hearing impairment etc.). Please specify which:
I don't know yet

older, please specify age groups:

Language(s) to be tested:

Use of MAIN:
research purposes
intervention/ diagnostic purposes
I don't know yet

Register as a user
In order to download and use the MAIN material, you must register as a user. Please fill in the following information:

Are you interested in providing us with feedback in order to improve the guidelines and norm-reference the MAIN?