Effects of Acoustic Manipulation on the Real-Time Inflectional Processing of Children With Specific Language Impairment Purpose This study reports the findings of an investigation designed to examine the effects of acoustic enhancement on the processing of low-phonetic-substance inflections (e.g., 3rd-person singular -s, possessive -s) versus a high-phonetic-substance inflection (e.g., present progressive -ing) by children with specific language impairment (SLI) in a word recognition, reaction time ... Research Article
Research Article  |   December 01, 2006
Effects of Acoustic Manipulation on the Real-Time Inflectional Processing of Children With Specific Language Impairment
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • James W. Montgomery
    Ohio University, Athens
  • Laurence B. Leonard
    Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
  • Contact author: Jim Montgomery, Grover Center W231, School of Hearing, Speech and Language Sciences, Ohio University, Athens, OH 45701. E-mail: montgoj1@ohio.edu.
Article Information
Hearing & Speech Perception / Acoustics / Language Disorders / Specific Language Impairment / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   December 01, 2006
Effects of Acoustic Manipulation on the Real-Time Inflectional Processing of Children With Specific Language Impairment
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 2006, Vol. 49, 1238-1256. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2006/089)
History: Received April 30, 2005 , Accepted February 25, 2006
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 2006, Vol. 49, 1238-1256. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2006/089)
History: Received April 30, 2005; Accepted February 25, 2006
Web of Science® Times Cited: 26

Purpose This study reports the findings of an investigation designed to examine the effects of acoustic enhancement on the processing of low-phonetic-substance inflections (e.g., 3rd-person singular -s, possessive -s) versus a high-phonetic-substance inflection (e.g., present progressive -ing) by children with specific language impairment (SLI) in a word recognition, reaction time (RT) processing task. The effects of acoustic enhancement on the processing of the same morphemes as well as an additional morpheme (comparative -er) were examined in an offline grammaticality judgment task. The grammatical function of 1 of the higher-phonetic-substance inflections, -ing, was presumed to be hypothesized relatively early by children; the function of the other, -er, was presumed to be hypothesized relatively late.

Method Sixteen children with SLI (ageM = 9 years;0 months) and 16 chronological age (CA; ageM = 8;11) children participated. For both tasks, children listened to sentences containing the target morphemes as they were produced naturally (natural condition) or with acoustic enhancement (enhanced condition).

Results On the RT task, the children with SLI demonstrated RT sensitivity only to the presence of the high-substance inflection, irrespective of whether it was produced naturally or with enhancement. Acoustic enhancement had no effect on these children’s processing of low-substance inflections. The CA children, by contrast, showed sensitivity to low-substance inflections when they were produced naturally and with acoustic enhancement. These children also showed sensitivity to the high-substance inflection in the natural condition, but in the enhanced condition they demonstrated significantly slower RT. On the grammaticality judgment task, the children with SLI performed worse than the CA children overall and showed especially poor performance on low-substance inflections. Acoustic enhancement had a beneficial effect on the inflectional processing of the children with SLI, but it had no effect on CA children.

Conclusion The findings are interpreted to suggest that the reduced language processing capacity of children with SLI constrains their ability to process low-substance grammatical material in real time. This factor should be considered along with any difficulty that might be attributable to the grammatical function of the inflection.

Acknowledgments
This study was supported by a research grant (DC 02535) from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Appreciation is expressed to Sarah Andrews, who assisted with acoustic reliability. We are grateful to the many children and their parents who participated in the study. The experimental sentences are available upon request.
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