Specific Language Impairment as a Period of Extended Optional Infinitive English-speaking children with specific language impairment (SLI) are known to have particular difficulty with the acquisition of grammatical morphemes that carry tense and agreement features, such as the past tense -ed and third-person singular present -s. In this study, an Extended Optional Infinitive (EOI) account of SLI is evaluated. In ... Research Article
EDITOR'S AWARD
Research Article  |   August 01, 1995
Specific Language Impairment as a Period of Extended Optional Infinitive
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Mabel L. Rice
    University of Kansas, Lawrence
  • Kenneth Wexler
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge
  • Patricia L. Cleave
    University of Kansas, Lawrence
  • Contact author: Mabel L. Rice, PhD, University of Kansas, Child Language Program, 1082 Robert Dole Human Development Center, Lawrence, KS 66045.
    Contact author: Mabel L. Rice, PhD, University of Kansas, Child Language Program, 1082 Robert Dole Human Development Center, Lawrence, KS 66045.×
Article Information
Language Disorders / Specific Language Impairment / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   August 01, 1995
Specific Language Impairment as a Period of Extended Optional Infinitive
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, August 1995, Vol. 38, 850-863. doi:10.1044/jshr.3804.850
History: Received June 1, 1994 , Accepted December 22, 1994
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, August 1995, Vol. 38, 850-863. doi:10.1044/jshr.3804.850
History: Received June 1, 1994; Accepted December 22, 1994

English-speaking children with specific language impairment (SLI) are known to have particular difficulty with the acquisition of grammatical morphemes that carry tense and agreement features, such as the past tense -ed and third-person singular present -s. In this study, an Extended Optional Infinitive (EOI) account of SLI is evaluated. In this account, -ed, -s, BE, and DO are regarded as finiteness markers. This model predicts that finiteness markers are omitted for an extended period of time for nonimpaired children, and that this period will be extended for a longer time in children with SLI. At the same time, it predicts that if finiteness markers are present, they will be used correctly. These predictions are tested in this study. Subjects were 18 5-year-old children with SLI with expressive and receptive language deficits and two comparison groups of children developing language normally: 22 CA-equivalent (5N) and 20 younger, MLU-equivalent children (3N). It was found that the children with SLI used nonfinite forms of lexical verbs, or omitted BE and DO, more frequently than children in the 5N and 3N groups. At the same time, like the normally developing children, when the children with SLI marked finiteness, they did so appropriately. Most strikingly, the SLI group was highly accurate in marking agreement on BE and DO forms. The findings are discussed in terms of the predictions of the EOI model, in comparison to other models of the grammatical limitations of children with SLI.

Acknowledgments
This study was supported by National Institute of Deafness and Communicative Disorders Awards R01 NS26129 to Mabel L. Rice, and R01 DC01803 to Mabel L Rice and Kenneth Wexler. We express special appreciation to Mary Howe for her assistance with data management and data analyses, and to Janna Oetting for her assistance with data collection. Our special appreciation is expressed to the children who participated in this study, their parents
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