Sensitivity to Grammatical Morphemes in Children With Specific Language Impairment Grammatical morphemes, such as articles and auxiliary verbs, provide potentially useful information to language learners. However, children with specific language impairment (SLI) frequently fail to produce grammatical morphemes, raising questions about their sensitivity to them. To address this issue, two experiments were conducted in which 3- to 5-year-old children with ... Research Article
Research Article  |   October 01, 1998
Sensitivity to Grammatical Morphemes in Children With Specific Language Impairment
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Mary McNamara
    University of Arizona Tucson
  • Allyson Carter
    University of Arizona Tucson
  • Bonnie McIntosh
    SUNY at Buffalo
  • LouAnn Gerken
    University of Arizona Tucson
  • Contact author: LouAnn Gerken, PhD, Department of Speech and Hearing Research, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721-0071
Article Information
Language Disorders / Specific Language Impairment / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   October 01, 1998
Sensitivity to Grammatical Morphemes in Children With Specific Language Impairment
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, October 1998, Vol. 41, 1147-1157. doi:10.1044/jslhr.4105.1147
History: Received November 6, 1997 , Accepted March 10, 1998
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, October 1998, Vol. 41, 1147-1157. doi:10.1044/jslhr.4105.1147
History: Received November 6, 1997; Accepted March 10, 1998

Grammatical morphemes, such as articles and auxiliary verbs, provide potentially useful information to language learners. However, children with specific language impairment (SLI) frequently fail to produce grammatical morphemes, raising questions about their sensitivity to them. To address this issue, two experiments were conducted in which 3- to 5-year-old children with SLI and with normally developing language (NL) heard sentences asking them to identify a picture corresponding to a named target word. The target occurred in either a grammatical sentence or one with an incorrectly used grammatical morpheme. In Experiment 1, the picture representing the target occurred with three unrelated distractor pictures. In Experiment 2, distractor sets included pictures that were semantically related to the target. In both studies, the SLI group chose fewer correct pictures when the target followed an incorrectly used morpheme. In Experiment 2, the SLI group chose more semantically related than unrelated distractors. These results suggest that children with SLI are sensitive to grammatical morphemes and that their incorrect picture choices may reflect a failure to maintain the target in memory.

Acknowledgments
We would like to thank Mary Boyle, Susan Renken-Mintzer, Shannon Halloran, and Mary Alt for data collection; and Tom Bever, Judy Duchan, Laurence Leonard, Elissa Newport, Linda Swisher, Virginia Valian, and Richard Wildes for their helpful comments and suggestions. We also thank the children and parents who participated in the research and the staffs of the clinics and preschools who kindly accommodated our research. This research was supported by NSF grants BNS9120952 and SBR9696072 to LouAnn Gerken.
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