Prosodic Markers of Syntactic Boundaries in the Speech of 4-Year-Old Children With Normal and Disordered Language Development This study focuses on the potential role of prosodic "boundary features" in developmental disorders of morphosyntax. As exemplified melodically by the final portion of the falling tone and rhythmically by final syllable lengthening, boundary features mark the right edge of major constituent units in speech and thus phonetically reflect syntactic ... Research Article
Research Article  |   October 01, 1998
Prosodic Markers of Syntactic Boundaries in the Speech of 4-Year-Old Children With Normal and Disordered Language Development
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • David Snow
    Child Language Center The University of Arizona Tucson
  • Contact author: David Snow, PhD, Department of Audiology and Speech Sciences, 1353 Heavilon Hall, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907-1353
  • Currently affiliated with Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
    Currently affiliated with Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN×
Article Information
Language Disorders / Specific Language Impairment / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   October 01, 1998
Prosodic Markers of Syntactic Boundaries in the Speech of 4-Year-Old Children With Normal and Disordered Language Development
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, October 1998, Vol. 41, 1158-1170. doi:10.1044/jslhr.4105.1158
History: Received November 5, 1996 , Accepted March 17, 1998
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, October 1998, Vol. 41, 1158-1170. doi:10.1044/jslhr.4105.1158
History: Received November 5, 1996; Accepted March 17, 1998

This study focuses on the potential role of prosodic "boundary features" in developmental disorders of morphosyntax. As exemplified melodically by the final portion of the falling tone and rhythmically by final syllable lengthening, boundary features mark the right edge of major constituent units in speech and thus phonetically reflect syntactic structure on the level of clauses and sentences. To resolve conflicting findings about the development of boundary features in children with specific language impairment (SLI), this study describes the falling tone and final syllable lengthening in the spontaneous speech of 10 four-year-old children with the phonologic-syntactic type of SLI and 10 four-year-old children with normal language development. The results—indicating that some prosodic boundary features are normal in preschoolers with SLI—show that impairments of morphology and syntax on the segmental level of the grammar do not implicate systematic deficits in syntax-sensitive features on the suprasegmental level. The potential dissociation between prosodic and morphosyntactic development is shown most clearly by the remarkable robustness of the falling tone, which was observed in 9 of the 10 children with SLI, in spite of the moderate to severe deficits they demonstrated in segmental phonology, morphosyntax, and mean length of utterance.

Acknowledgments
This research was funded in part by grant numbers H029D90108 and H023C40118-95 from the U.S. Department of Education. I would like to thank Nadine Caffall for assistance with the data collection activities and Kresent Gurtler for his contributions to the acoustic analysis and reliability portions of the study.
Order a Subscription
Pay Per View
Entire Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research content & archive
24-hour access
This Article
24-hour access