Article

Sentence Imitation With Masked Morphemes in Czech: Memory, Morpheme Frequency, and Morphological Richness

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Purpose This study examined two markers of language impairment (LI) in a single experiment, testing sentence imitation and grammatical morphology production using an imitation task with masked morphemes. One goal was to test predictions of the morphological richness account of LI in Czech. We also tested the independent contributions of language and memory skills to sentence imitation performance. Method Seventeen children with LI (5;1–7;6 [years;months]) and 17 vocabulary-matched typically developing (TD) children (3;8–4;11) were administered a sentence imitation task where each sentence had one noun or verb ending replaced by a coughing sound. In addition, a receptive vocabulary and the digit span (backward and forward) tasks were administered. Results Children with LI were significantly less accurate than TD children in sentence imitation task. Both vocabulary and digit span had unique effects on sentence imitation scores. Children with LI were less successful in imitating the target words, especially verbs. However, if they succeeded, their completions of the masked morphemes were no less accurate than in TD children. The accuracy of completions was affected by the morpheme frequency and homophony, but these effects were similar in TD and affected children. Conclusions Sentence imitation is a measure of language skills and verbal memory. Results on morpheme completions are consistent with processing models of LI, but some predictions of the morphological richness model were not confirmed. The results suggest that children with LI might have a deficit in organizing morphosyntactic relations in sentences, rather than in morphological processing proper.

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... Spanish, being the second language in our results, was studied in more than half of the cases with Latino bilingual children (e.g., [33][34][35][36]), and research with monolingual Spanish speaking children is scarce (e.g., [14,[37][38][39]). The representation of other languages is low, with most of them having only one or two published studies (e.g., in Arabic [40,41]; in Czech [20,42]; and in Kannada [43]). This set of results clearly shows that the evidence regarding the use of SRTs is biased towards English. ...
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ABSTRACT Children with specific language impairment (SLI) are distinguishable from typically developing children primarily in the pace and course of their language development. For this reason, they are appropriate candidates for inclusion in any theory of language acquisition. In this paper, the areas of overlap between children with SLI and those developing in typical fashion are discussed, along with how the joint study of these two populations can enhance our understanding of the language development process. In particular, evidence from children with SLI can provide important information concerning the role of language typology in language development, the optimal ages for acquiring particular linguistic details, the robustness of the bilingual advantage for children, the role of input in children's acquisition of grammatical details, the unintended influence of processing demands during language assessment, the contributions of treatment designs to the study of typically developing children, and the study of individual differences in language development.
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Two recent studies (Johnson et al., 2005; Perez-Leroux, 2005) found that English- and Spanish-learning children do not show the ability to use verb inflection as a cue to subject number before the age of 5 to 6 years. These findings suggest an asymmetric development as verb inflections are usually correctly produced before this age.In the present study we investigated whether German 3- to 4-year-olds take advantage of the information provided by the verb inflection in sentence comprehension. In a first study, children's looking behavior at two pictures was measured after presentation of a sentence in which the subject number was coded only by the verb inflection. The results from this study suggest that children's looks reflect correct interpretation of the sentences and thus show their ability to make use of verb inflection. In a second experiment, preferential looking was combined with an additional task in which the children had to point to the matching picture. In this case children did not perform above chance level.Our results underline the relevance that specific task demands have on the performance of children in comprehension testing. These have to be accounted for when interpreting findings on production and comprehension asymmetries in language acquisition.
Article
An extended period of Optional Infinitives (OIs) has been identified in young English-speaking children with specific language impairment (SLI; Rice and Wexler (1996b), Rice, Wexler, and Cleave (1995)). Poeppel and Wexler (1993) argued that an OI period exist in young unaffected German-speaking children. In this investigation, predictions are formulated for an extended OI stage in German-speaking children with SLI and evaluated in a clinical sample of 8 young German-speaking children with SLI, ages 4;0 to 4;8, and a control group of 8 younger mean length of utterance equivalent children, ages 2;1 to 2;7. Longitudinal spontaneous language samples reveal that the affected group was more likely than the younger control group to use infinitival lexical verbs in declarative sentences and to drop copular SEIN, as predicted for an Extended Optional Infinitive (EOI) stage. As expected, lexical infinitives appeared in clause-final word order, showing that the affected children know the association between sentence position and finiteness and do not show deviant word order in verb placement. The use of OIs in the SLI group cannot be attributed to missing agreement (as argued by Clahsen and colleagues) because the use of third-person -t appeared with third-person subjects in 94% of uses and forms of SEIN agreed with the subject in 98% of overt uses. Overall, the evidence provides strong support for an EOI period in German-speaking children with SLI. Individual children, as well as group data, show the expected patterns.
Article
This study examines the use of tense, agreement, and non-tense morphemes and associated distributional contingencies in the language production of Quebec French-speaking children with specific language impairment (SLI) and normally developing language and age-matched controls. We sought to determine whether the Optional Infinitive/Extended Optional Infinitive (OI/EOI; e.g., Rice & Wexler (1996)) pattern of normal and impaired developmental language in English occurs in French as well. In so doing, we also sought to explore the possibility that certain kinds of finite verb forms can pattern as root infinitives in some languages including French. Our results indicate that SLI in French has the majority of the EOI characteristics displayed in English SLI, such as variable use of tense-marking morphemes combined with accuracy of form choice, obedience to distributional contingencies associated with finiteness, and relatively nonvariable use of non-tense grammatical morphemes. Our results also provide support for French SLI being an extension of an earlier stage in normal development. Furthermore, our analyses reveal that the finite verb stem in French appears to act as a root infinitive along side the nonfinite verb forms. Accordingly, we suggest that the (Extended) Optional Infinitive account could be renamed the (Extended) Optional Default account in order to include certain finite forms as well as nonfinite forms as root infinitives.
Article
Theories of language learnability have focused on “normal” language development, but there is a group of children, termed “specifically language-impaired,” for whom these theories are also appropriate. These children present an interesting learnability problem because they develop language slowly, the intermediate points in their development differ in certain respects from the usual developmental stages, and they do not always achieve the adult level of language functioning. In this article, specifically language-impaired children are treated as normal learners dealing with an input that is distorted in principled ways. When the children are viewed from this perspective, Pinker's (1984) theory can account for many of the features of their language.
Article
This paper presents an exploratory study of the spontaneous production of 11 French children clinically diagnosed as specific language impaired (SLI). In a cross-sectional study of the children under and over 5 years of age, we investigate the production of finite and non-finite verbal forms, of sentences with overt and null subjects, and of pronominal clitics. A comparison between younger and older children with SLI highlights developmental patterns which parallel normal syntactic development in important respects, though at a slower pace. An area of difficulty which clearly persists for the older group involves the domain of pronominal complement clitics.
Article
In this influential study, Steven Pinker develops a new approach to the problem of language learning. Now reprinted with new commentary by the author, this classic work continues to be an indispensable resource in developmental psycholinguistics. Reviews of this book: "The contribution of [Pinker's] book lies not just in its carefully argued section on learnability theory and acquisition, but in its detailed analysis of the empirical consequences of his assumptions." --Paul Fletcher, Times Higher Education Supplement "One of those rare books which every serious worker in the field should read, both for its stock of particular hypotheses and analyses, and for the way it forces one to re-examine basic assumptions as to how one's work should be done. Its criticisms of other approaches to language acquisition...often go to the heart of the difficulties." --Michael Maratsos, Language "[A] new edition, with a new preface from the author, of the influential monograph originally published in 1984 in which Pinker proposed one of the most detailed (and according to some, best) theories of language development based upon the sequential activation of different language-acquisition algorithms. In his new preface, the author reaches the not very modest conclusion that, despite the time elapsed, his continues to be the most complete theory of language development ever developed. A classic of the study of language acquisition, in any case." -- Infancia y Aprendizaje [Italy]
Article
The present study examined the utility of 2 measures proposed as markers of specific language impairment (SLI) in identifying specific impairments in language or working memory in school-age children. A group of 400 school-age children completed a 5-min screening consisting of nonword repetition and sentence recall. A subset of low (n = 52) and average (n = 38) scorers completed standardized tests of language, short-term and working memory, and nonverbal intelligence. Approximately equal numbers of children were identified with specific impairments in either language or working memory. A group about twice as large had deficits in both language and working memory. Sensitivity of the screening measure for both SLI and specific working memory impairments was 84% or greater, although specificity was closer to 50%. Sentence recall performance below the 10th percentile was associated with sensitivity and specificity values above 80% for SLI. Developmental deficits may be specific to language or working memory, or include impairments in both areas. Sentence recall is a useful clinical marker of SLI and combined language and working memory impairments.
Article
The present work was conducted to demonstrate a method that could be used to assess the hypothesis that children with specific language impairment (SLI) often respond more slowly than unimpaired children on a range of tasks. The data consisted of 22 pairs of mean response times (RTs) obtained from previously published studies; each pair consisted of a mean RT for a group of children with SLI for an experimental condition and the corresponding mean RT for a group of children without SLI. If children with SLI always respond more slowly than unimpaired children and by an amount that does not vary across tasks, then RTs for children with SLI should increase linearly as a function of RTs for age-matched control children without SLI. This result was obtained and is consistent with the view that differences in processing speed between children with and without SLI reflect some general (i.e., non-task specific) component of cognitive processing. Future applications of the method are suggested.
Article
In earlier work, Italian-speaking children with specific language impairment (SLI) have been shown to exhibit a profile of grammatical morpheme difficulties that is quite different from the profile seen for English-speaking children with SLI. In the present study, this difference was confirmed using a wider range of grammatical morpheme types. A group of Italian-speaking children with SLI produced articles and third person plural verb inflections with lower percentages in obligatory contexts than a group of age controls and a group of younger controls matched for mean length of utterance (MLU). However, the children with SLI closely resembled the MLU controls in their production of noun plural inflections, third person copula forms, first person singular and plural verb inflections, and third person singular verb inflections. Errors on articles and copula forms were usually omissions whereas errors on verb inflections were usually productions of inappropriate finite inflections. Infinitives were seen in contexts requiring finite forms but they were not the dominant error type. Data from comprehension tasks raise the possibility that production factors were responsible for some of the differences seen. The findings of this study suggest that accounts of SLI are incomplete unless they assign a major role to the relative case of identifying and interpreting the relevant data in the ambient language. The implications of these findings for current accounts of SLI are discussed.
Article
Several hypotheses have been offered to explain the grammatical morpheme difficulties observed in the speech of children with specific language impairment. Three of the accounts that could be evaluated in English were the focus of this study: the extended optional infinitive account, the implicit rule deficit account, and the surface account. Preschoolers with specific language impairment, a group of age controls, and a group of younger children matched for mean length of utterance were evaluated in their use of several theory-relevant grammatical morphemes. The findings revealed advantages for both the surface and extended optional infinitive hypotheses. In contrast, a test of the predictions based on the implicit rule deficit account suggested that the children studied here were not experiencing a deficit of this type.
Article
Several competing proposals have been offered to explain the grammatical difficulties experienced by children with specific language impairment (SLI). In this study, the grammatical abilities of Swedish-speaking children with SLI were examined for the purpose of evaluating these proposals and offering new findings that might be used in the development of alternative accounts. A group of preschoolers with SLI showed lower percentages of use of present tense copula forms and regular past tense inflections than normally developing peers matched for age and younger normally developing children matched for mean length of utterance (MLU). Word order errors, too, were more frequent in the speech of the children with SLI. However, these children performed as well as MLU-matched children in the use of present tense inflections and irregular past forms. In addition, the majority of their sentences containing word order errors showed appropriate use of verb morphology. None of the competing accounts of SLI could accommodate all of the findings. In particular, these accounts--or new alternatives-must develop provisions to explain both the earlier acquisition of present tense inflections than past tense inflections and word order errors that seem unrelated to verb morphology.
Article
In this study 160 children, aged 11 years with a definite history of specific language impairment (SLI), completed four tasks that could be potential positive psycholinguistic markers for this impairment: a third person singular task, a past tense task, a nonword repetition task, and a sentence repetition task. This allowed examination of more than one type of marker simultaneously, facilitating both comparisons between markers and also evaluation of combinations of markers in relation to identifying SLI. The study also provided data regarding the markers in relation to nonverbal IQ, made use of new normative data on all tasks, and examined marker accuracy in relation to current language status. The results show that markers vary in accuracy, with sentence repetition (a previously unused marker) proving to be the most useful. This psycholinguistic marker shows high levels of sensitivity (90%), specificity (85%), and overall accuracy (88%), as well as being able to identify the majority of children whose current language status falls in the normal range despite a history of SLI.
Article
Recent studies of children with specific language impairment (SLI) have identified language measures that seem quite accurate in distinguishing preschool-age children with SLI from their normally developing peers. However, the studies have focussed exclusively on English, and it is clear from the literature that the SLI profile varies between languages. This paper reports on three studies designed to assess the utility of particular language measures for Italian. In the first two studies, it was found that a composite measure based on the use of definite singular articles and third-person plural inflections showed good sensitivity and specificity in distinguishing Italian-speaking children with SLI from their typically developing peers. The third study showed that the same composite can be applied successfully to individual cases of SLI. Some of the additional steps needed to evaluate this composite measure are discussed.
Article
Research on language acquisition and disorders highlights the need to evaluate the early phases of language development for the early identification of children with language problems (screening), and to determine the nature and severity of language disorders (diagnosis). The paper presents a new Sentence Repetition Task developed for evaluating language abilities in Italian pre-schoolers. Two studies are reported. The first is aimed at evaluating the power of the Sentence Repetition Task in discriminating the developmental changes in children's capacity to repeat sentences of different length and morphosyntactic complexity. Moreover, the test-retest reliability was assessed. The second study explored the relationship between the Sentence Repetition Task, free speech and verbal memory span. The test included 27 sentences of different length and complexity. Each sentence was accompanied with a picture reproducing its global meaning. In Study 1, the Sentence Repetition Task was administrated to 100 middle- and lower-class children (balanced for gender) between 2 and 4 years with a test-retest design. Test results were submitted to univariate analysis of variance, using five age levels as independent variables. To evaluate the test reliability, test-retest correlational analyses were conducted. In Study 2, 25 middle- and lower-class children between 2 and 4 years of age, balanced for age and gender, participated. The performance of the children on the repetition test was compared with their spontaneous language data. Moreover, the same children received a Verbal Memory Span test, consisting of a list of ten strings of different number of words. Correlational analyses were conducted to evaluate the relationships between the Sentence Repetition Task, free speech and the Verbal Memory Span test. Study 1 showed that 2-year-old children's repeated sentences were highly telegraphic. Between the age of 2.0 and 2.6 the mean length of utterance in the Sentence Repetition Task grew from approximately two to three words, and the number of omissions of articles, prepositions and modifiers significantly decreased. After 3.0 years old, omissions of free function words practically disappeared. The results of Study 2 showed that mean length of utterance, omission of articles and use of the verbs in the Sentence Repetition Task correlated with the same measures of the free speech. Moreover, positive correlations were found between verbal memory span and performance of both the repetition task and the free speech. Results demonstrate that the repetition test is reliable, discriminates between the different age groups examined, highlights the relevant developmental stages described in the literature, and provides a reliable measure of the mean length of utterance.