Semantic Representation and Naming in Children With Specific Language Impairment When 16 children with SLI (mean age=6;2) and 16 normally developing age-mates named age-appropriate objects, the SLI cohort made more naming errors. For both cohorts, semantic misnaming and indeterminate responses were the predominant error types. The contribution of limited semantic representation to these naming errors was explored. Each participant drew ... Research Article
EDITOR'S AWARD
Research Article  |   October 01, 2002
Semantic Representation and Naming in Children With Specific Language Impairment
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Karla K. McGregor, PhD
    Northwestern University Evanston, IL
  • Robyn M. Newman
    Northwestern University Evanston, IL
  • Renée M. Reilly
    Northwestern University Evanston, IL
  • Nina C. Capone
    Northwestern University Evanston, IL
  • Contact author: Karla K. McGregor, PhD, 2299 N. Campus Drive, Evanston, IL 60208. E-mail: k-mcgregor@northwestern.edu
Article Information
Language Disorders / Specific Language Impairment / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   October 01, 2002
Semantic Representation and Naming in Children With Specific Language Impairment
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, October 2002, Vol. 45, 998-1014. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2002/081)
History: Received October 31, 2001 , Accepted June 5, 2002
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, October 2002, Vol. 45, 998-1014. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2002/081)
History: Received October 31, 2001; Accepted June 5, 2002
Web of Science® Times Cited: 135

When 16 children with SLI (mean age=6;2) and 16 normally developing age-mates named age-appropriate objects, the SLI cohort made more naming errors. For both cohorts, semantic misnaming and indeterminate responses were the predominant error types. The contribution of limited semantic representation to these naming errors was explored. Each participant drew and defined each item from his or her semantic and indeterminate error pools and each item from his or her correctly named pool. When compared, the drawings and definitions of items from the error pools were poorer, suggesting limited semantic knowledge. The profiles of information included in definitions of items from the correct pool and the error pools were highly similar, suggesting that representations associated with misnaming differed quantitatively, but not qualitatively, from those associated with correct naming. Eleven members of the SLI cohort also participated in a forced-choice recognition task. Performance was significantly lower on erroneous targets than on correctly named targets. When performance was compared across all three post-naming tasks (drawing, defining, recognition), the participants evinced sparse semantic knowledge for roughly half of all semantic misnaming and roughly one third of all indeterminate responses. In additional cases, representational gaps were evident. This study demonstrates that the degree of knowledge represented in the child's semantic lexicon makes words more or less vulnerable to retrieval failure and that limited semantic knowledge contributes to the frequent naming errors of children with SLI.

Acknowledgments
We thank the children who participated, their families, and their speech-language pathologists. We are indebted to the faculty of Walker, Dewey, Greenbriar, and Westgate Schools for their cooperation. Beth Schiff was particularly helpful with subject recruitment, and Rosie Carr and Anne Graham provided invaluable assistance with data analysis. Five faithful Northwestern graduate students served as raters. Credit is due to an anonymous reviewer for suggesting the definition-naming mismatch analysis. Finally, we gratefully acknowledge the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (award #R29 DC 03698) for support of the first author.
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