Morphological Productivity in Children With Normal Language and SLI A Study of the English Past Tense Research Article
Research Article  |   February 01, 1999
Morphological Productivity in Children With Normal Language and SLI
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Virginia A. Marchman
    University of Texas at Dallas
  • Beverly Wulfeck
    San Diego State University San Diego, CA
  • Susan Ellis Weismer
    University of Wisconsin, Madison
  • Contact author: Virginia A. Marchman, PhD, School of Human Development GR 41, The University of Texas at Dallas, P.O. Box 830688, Richardson, TX 75083-0688. Email: vamarch@utdallas.edu
Article Information
Language Disorders / Specific Language Impairment / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   February 01, 1999
Morphological Productivity in Children With Normal Language and SLI
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, February 1999, Vol. 42, 206-219. doi:10.1044/jslhr.4201.206
History: Received September 29, 1997 , Accepted April 25, 1998
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, February 1999, Vol. 42, 206-219. doi:10.1044/jslhr.4201.206
History: Received September 29, 1997; Accepted April 25, 1998

Children with specific language impairment (SLI) are known to display persistent difficulties with inflectional morphology—in particular, the overuse of unmarked grammatical forms (i.e., zero-marking). Yet, several recent studies have shown that English-speaking children with SLI, like their normal language peers (NL), demonstrate a considerable degree of productive language abilities (e.g., Bishop, 1994; Loeb & Leonard, 1991; Oetting & Horohov, 1997). In this study, we explore productivity in the English past tense in school-age children with SLI (N=31) and NL (N=31) who were equivalent as a group in chronological and mental age. Although children in both groups produced a range of error types, the children with SLI produced significantly more errors, with a greater proportion resulting from zero-marking (e.g., go) than suffixation (e.g., goed). Item analyses indicated that suffixations and zero-markings were predicted by item frequency, phonological features of stems, and similarity relationships across items (i.e., neighborhood structure) in both groups, yet children with SLI were more sensitive to item phonology than their NL peers. Results are interpreted in light of the predictions of dual- versus single-mechanism models of morphological productivity. Implications for accounts of SLI are discussed.

Acknowledgments
This research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (DCR29 02292, DCR29 011, DC00787, NS P5022343, Waisman Mental Retardation Center Core Grant) and the University of Wisconsin Alumni Foundation (WARF). We would like to thank Dan Callan, Gina Conti-Ramsden, Esther Dromi, Julia Evans, Linda Hesketh, Dai Kimura, Karen Luh, Kristin Mayernick, Nicole Mulroy, Elizabeth Dray, the staff of the Language Research Center/Children’s Hospital Research Center, and the parents and children who participated in the studies.
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