Article/Report  |   April 2008
Lexical Representations in Children With SLI: Evidence From a Frequency-Manipulated Gating Task
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Elina Mainela-Arnold
    Pennsylvania State University
  • Julia L. Evans
    San Diego State University and University of California, San Diego
  • Jeffry A. Coady
    Boston University
  • Contact author: Elina Mainela-Arnold, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Pennsylvania State University, 401K Ford Building, University Park, PA 16802-3100. E-mail: ezm3@psu.edu.
Article Information
Language Disorders / Specific Language Impairment / Language
Article/Report   |   April 2008
Lexical Representations in Children With SLI: Evidence From a Frequency-Manipulated Gating Task
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, April 2008, Vol. 51, 381-393. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2008/028)
History: Received January 22, 2007 , Accepted July 3, 2007
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, April 2008, Vol. 51, 381-393. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2008/028)
History: Received January 22, 2007; Accepted July 3, 2007
Web of Science® Times Cited: 32

Purpose: This study investigated lexical representations of children with specific language impairment (SLI) and typically developing, chronological age-matched (CA) peers on a frequency-manipulated gating task. The study tested the hypothesis that children with SLI have holistic phonological representations of words, that is, that children with SLI would exhibit smaller effects of neighborhood density on gating durations than CA peers and that children with SLI would be as efficient as CA peers in accessing high-frequency words but that they would differ from their age-matched peers in accessing low-frequency words.

Method: Thirty-two children (ages 8;5–12;3 [years;months]) participated: 16 children with SLI and 16 typically developing peers matched on age and nonverbal IQ. Children’s word guesses after different gating durations were investigated.

Results: Contrary to predictions, no group differences in effects of distributional regularity were found: Children in both groups required equally longer acoustic chunks to access words that were low in frequency and came from dense neighborhoods. However, children with SLI appeared to vacillate between multiple word candidates at significantly later gates when compared with children in the CA group.

Conclusions: Children with SLI did not exhibit evidence for phonologically holistic lexical representations. Instead, they appeared more vulnerable to competing words.

Acknowledgments
Research reported in this article was supported by two grants from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (F31 DC 6536, Elina Mainela-Arnold, Principal Investigator, and R01 DC 5650-01, Julia Evans, Principal Investigator). We thank Lisbeth Heilmann for her assistance in collecting the data and Karissa Fronk, Majorie Maack, Mathew Keeler, and Dana Accola for their assistance in coding the data. We thank Martha Alibali, Maryellen MacDonald, Susan Ellis Weismer, and Lynn Turkstra for their helpful comments at different stages of this research, and Bruce Tomblin, Bob McMurray, and Li Sheng for discussions on the topic of lexical activation. Finally, we are most grateful to the parents and children who participated in the study. Parts of this research were reported in the first author’s doctoral dissertation at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
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