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 more than 60 language versions all over the world. 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 09.12.21, 2–4 pm (CET). Additionally, there will be a time slot for T&T on 02.11.21 from 2:00–3:30 pm (CET) during the MODE Conference. More details.

  • MODE: Methods of Online Discourse Elicitation Conference

    MODE is a series of conferences on online research methods. The upcoming MODE is online via Zoom from 1–3 November 2021, 2:00–6:00 pm (CET) and focuses on discourse elicitation.
    For further details see https:/​/​sites.google.com/​view/​mode-conference/​home.

  • New language versions

    Uyghur, Portuguese (Brazilian), Maltese, Telugu and IsiXhosa are available for download. More details.

  • 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