Understanding Referential Expressions in Context Use of Common Ground by Children and Adolescents With Mental Retardation Research Article
Research Article  |   December 01, 1998
Understanding Referential Expressions in Context
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Leonard Abbeduto
    University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Katherine Short-Meyerson
    Vanderbilt University Nashville, TN
  • Glenis Benson
    University of Louisville Louisville, KY
  • Joanna Dolish
    University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Michelle Weissman
    University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Contact author: Leonard Abbeduto, Department of Educational Psychology, University of Wisconsin–Madison, 1025 West Johnson, Madison, WI 53706.
Article Information
Development / School-Based Settings / Research Issues, Methods & Evidence-Based Practice / Normal Language Processing / Language Disorders / Social Communication & Pragmatics Disorders / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   December 01, 1998
Understanding Referential Expressions in Context
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 1998, Vol. 41, 1348-1362. doi:10.1044/jslhr.4106.1348
History: Received August 4, 1997 , Accepted March 21, 1998
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 1998, Vol. 41, 1348-1362. doi:10.1044/jslhr.4106.1348
History: Received August 4, 1997; Accepted March 21, 1998

Listeners interpret utterances against the common ground, or network of presuppositions shared with the speaker. The first purpose of the study was to determine whether individuals with mental retardation use the major sources of common ground (i.e., physical copresence, linguistic copresence, and community member-ship) to resolve referential ambiguity. The second purpose was to determine whether they seek confirmation of their referent choices in accordance with the certainty of interpretation afforded by the common ground. The third purpose was to determine whether they signal noncomprehension when faced with ambiguity and common ground that is not informative. The final purpose was to evaluate the relationship between within-group variability in common ground use and measures of nonverbal cognition, receptive and expressive language, and social cognition. Participants were school-age individuals with mental retardation and typically developing children matched to them on nonverbal MA. Common ground use was examined in a role-playing task in which the participant responded to ambiguous utterances. Common ground was manipulated within participants. We determined whether referent selections were appropriate for the common ground, whether they were accompanied by confirmation requests, and whether noncomprehension was signaled. Both groups used all sources of common ground to resolve referential ambiguity at better than chance levels but were less successful in using community membership. Both groups also requested confirmation of their referent choices most often when the common ground was based on community membership. Both groups signaled noncomprehension when the common ground was not informative. Different aspects of common ground use were related to different predictors for the group with mental retardation.

Acknowledgments
The research reported was supported by NICHD Grants R01 HD24356 and P30 HD03352. The authors are indebted to the students, staff, and parents of Black Hawk Middle School, Blessed Sacrament Elementary School, Cambridge Elementary School, Cherokee Middle School, DeForest Middle School and High School, Fairview Elementary School, First United Methodist Preschool and Kindergarten, Jefferson Middle School, Kegonsa Elementary School, Lincoln Elementary School, Middleton High School, Our Lady Queen of Peace Elementary School, St. Coletta School, St. Dennis Elementary School, and West High School. Thanks also to Kris Tjaden, Naomi Rahn, and Karen Koerber for transcribing the expressive language samples. Portions of this paper were presented at the 1996 conference of the International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual Disability, Helsinki, Finland.
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