Children With Specific Language Impairments Perceive Speech Most Categorically When Tokens Are Natural and Meaningful Purpose To examine perceptual deficits as a potential underlying cause of specific language impairments (SLI). Method Twenty-one children with SLI (8;7–11;11 [years;months]) and 21 age-matched controls participated in categorical perception tasks using four series of syllables for which perceived syllable-initial voicing varied. Series were either words or abstract ... Research Article
Research Article  |   February 01, 2007
Children With Specific Language Impairments Perceive Speech Most Categorically When Tokens Are Natural and Meaningful
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Jeffry A. Coady
    Boston University
  • Julia L. Evans
    University of Wisconsin—Madison
  • Elina Mainela-Arnold
    University of Wisconsin—Madison
  • Keith R. Kluender
    University of Wisconsin—Madison
  • Contact author: Jeffry A. Coady, Sargent College, Boston University, 635 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215. E-mail: coady@bu.edu.
  • Julia L. Evans is now at the School of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, San Diego State University, and Elina Mainela-Arnold is now at the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Pennsylvania State University.
    Julia L. Evans is now at the School of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, San Diego State University, and Elina Mainela-Arnold is now at the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Pennsylvania State University.×
Article Information
Language Disorders / Specific Language Impairment / Hearing / Research Articles
Research Article   |   February 01, 2007
Children With Specific Language Impairments Perceive Speech Most Categorically When Tokens Are Natural and Meaningful
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, February 2007, Vol. 50, 41-57. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2007/004)
History: Received July 1, 2005 , Accepted June 12, 2006
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, February 2007, Vol. 50, 41-57. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2007/004)
History: Received July 1, 2005; Accepted June 12, 2006
Web of Science® Times Cited: 20

Purpose To examine perceptual deficits as a potential underlying cause of specific language impairments (SLI).

Method Twenty-one children with SLI (8;7–11;11 [years;months]) and 21 age-matched controls participated in categorical perception tasks using four series of syllables for which perceived syllable-initial voicing varied. Series were either words or abstract nonword syllables and either synthesized or high-quality edited natural utterances. Children identified and discriminated (a) digitally edited tokens of naturally spoken “bowl”–“pole”, (b) synthesized renditions of “bowl”–“pole”, (c) natural “ba”–“pa”, and (d) synthetic “ba”–“pa”.

Results Identification crossover locations were the same for both groups of children, but there was modestly less accuracy on unambiguous endpoints for children with SLI. Planned comparisons revealed these effects to be limited to synthesized speech. Children with SLI showed overall reduced discrimination, but these effects were limited to abstract nonword syllables.

Conclusion Overall, children with SLI perceived naturally spoken real words comparably to age-matched peers but showed impaired identification and discrimination of synthetic speech and of abstract syllables. Poor performance on speech perception tasks may result from task demands and stimulus properties, not perceptual deficits.

Acknowledgment
This research was supported by grants from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders: DC-05263 to the first author, DC-04072 to the second author, and DC-005650 to the fourth author. We are grateful to the children and their parents for participating. We thank Lisbeth Simon and Kristin Ryan for help with standardized testing, and Ariel Young Shibilski for recording the stimuli.
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