Random Example MAIN Illustration

What is MAIN?

The MAIN (Multilingual Assessment Instrument for Narratives) is an instrument for assessing narrative skills in children who acquire one or more languages from birth or from early age, developed as part of the LITMUS battery of tests (see Background for more details). MAIN exists for many different languages. It contains four parallel stories, each with a carefully designed six-picture sequence based on a multidimensional model of story organization. The stories are controlled for cognitive and linguistic complexity, parallelism in macrostructure and microstructure, as well as for cultural appropriateness and robustness.

MAIN allows for the assessment of comprehension and production of narratives in several languages in the same child and in different elicitation modes: Model Story, Retelling, and Telling. It can be used for evaluation, intervention, and research purposes.

If you want to use MAIN

MAIN is available in 71 language versions all over the world and 18 more are currently in progress. Our Worldwide Network of researchers and practitioners is constantly growing.

Before using MAIN, please see the chapter »Background on MAIN Revised, how to use it and adapt it to other languages«.

If you want to use MAIN, you have to accept copyright and license agreements; after that you can download the pictures and guidelines/​protocols in different languages.

More information is available under MAIN materials.


  • Next Text & Tea with MAIN

    Our next T&T meeting will take place on 09.06.22, 2–4 pm (CET). More details.

  • New language versions

    Albanian, Tamil and Sámi North are available for download. More details.

  • BiSLI conference 2022

    The 4th Bi-SLI 2022 will be hosted as a hybrid conference in Berlin and via Zoom on 9th – 10th May 2022.
    Abstract submission deadline: 21 February 2022
    For further information please visit https:/​/​linktr.ee/​Bi_SLI

  • Call for Papers: Volume about MAIN language versions (ZAS Papers in Linguistics)

    Another ZASPiL volume will be edited, preliminary to be published at the end of 2022. The authors of all MAIN language versions, which a) were published 2020–2021, and b) for which there was no paper in ZASPiL 64 can submit only 1 paper per language version, but it is possible to write 1 paper about more than one language version. Deadline for submission: 30 April 2022.
    Further questions can be forwarded to Josefin Lindgren (josefin.lindgren@nordiska.uu.se)

  • MAIN and Narrative comprehension

    The book Developing narrative comprehension, edited by Ute Bohnacker (Uppsala University) & Natalia Gagarina (Leibniz-ZAS) has just come out, with 11 chapters on 10 language combinations in bilingual children (John Benjamins, 2020).

  • »First Language« special issue

    A special issue of First Language on the acquisition of reference in narratives elicited with MAIN is under way, guest-edited by Natalia Gagarina & Ute Bohnacker.


MAIN is part of LITMUS (Language Impairment Testing in Multilingual Settings). LITMUS is a battery of tests that is 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.

The 2012 version of MAIN was designed on the basis of extensive piloting with more than 500 monolingual and bilingual children aged 3 to 10, for 15 different languages and language combinations. Later on, MAIN has also been used successfully with older children, adolescents and adults.

The present 2019 English version has been revised on the basis of over 2,500 transcribed MAIN narratives as well as ca 24,000 responses to MAIN comprehension questions, collected from around 700 monolingual and bilingual children in Germany, Russia and Sweden between 2013–2019.

Call to MAIN users

Send us your publications, presentations, and information on MAIN related activities – we will post a selection on this website.
Contact e-mail: costmain@leibniz-zas.de