Language Skills of Children and Adolescents With Down Syndrome II. Production Deficits Research Article
Research Article  |   August 01, 1998
Language Skills of Children and Adolescents With Down Syndrome
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Robin S. Chapman
    University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Hye-Kyeung Seung
    University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Scott E. Schwartz
    Boulder, Colorado, School District
  • Elizabeth Kay-Raining Bird
    Dalhousie University Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
  • Contact author: Robin S. Chapman, Waisman Center, 1500 Highland Avenue, Madison, WI 53705. Email: Chapman@Waisman.Wisc.Edu
Article Information
Development / Special Populations / Genetic & Congenital Disorders / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   August 01, 1998
Language Skills of Children and Adolescents With Down Syndrome
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, August 1998, Vol. 41, 861-873. doi:10.1044/jslhr.4104.861
History: Received June 23, 1997 , Accepted October 9, 1997
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, August 1998, Vol. 41, 861-873. doi:10.1044/jslhr.4104.861
History: Received June 23, 1997; Accepted October 9, 1997

Hypotheses that children and adolescents with Down syndrome show (a) a specific expressive language impairment, (b) a "critical period" for language acquisition, (c) a "simple sentence syntactic ceiling" in production, and (d) deficit in grammatical morphology were investigated cross-sectionally. Conversational and narrative language samples from 47 children and adolescents with Down syndrome (Trisomy 21), aged 5 to 20 years, were compared to those from 47 control children aged 2 to 6 years matched statistically for nonverbal mental age. Children with Down syndrome appear to have a specific language impairment, compared to control children, in number of different words and total words (in the first 50 utterances) and in mean length of utterance (MLU). Total utterance attempts per minute were more frequent in the Down syndrome group. Narrative samples contained more word tokens, more word types, and longer MLU than conversation samples, for both groups. Intelligibility of narratives was significantly poorer for the Down syndrome group than controls. Analyses of narrative language sample by age sub-group showed no evidence of a critical period for language development ending at adolescence, nor of a "syntactic ceiling" at MLUs corresponding to simple sentences for the Down syndrome group. Omissions of word tokens and types were more frequent in the older Down syndrome than the younger control sample, matched on MLU.

Acknowledgments
This research was supported by NIH Grant R01 HD23353 to R. Chapman. Revisions to this paper were completed while the author was on a sabbatical leave at the Applied Psychology Unit of the Medical Research Council, Cambridge, England, and a by-Fellow at Churchill College. The help of the children and parents who participated is gratefully acknowledged, as is the assistance of Denise Maybach in supervising the transcription lab.
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