The Comprehension of Wh-Questions in Children With Specific Language Impairment Current theories of specific language impairment (SLI) in children fall into 2 general classes: those that attribute SLI to processing limitations and those that attribute the disorder to deficits in grammatical knowledge. In this study, the authors examined children's comprehension of subject and object Wh-questions because they offer the means ... Research Article
Research Article  |   August 01, 2004
The Comprehension of Wh-Questions in Children With Specific Language Impairment
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Patricia Deevy
    Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
  • Laurence B. Leonard
    Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
  • Corresponding author: e-mail: deevy@purdue.edu
  • Patricia Deevy, PhD, Audiology and Speech Sciences, Heavilon Hall, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907. E-mail: deevy@purdue.edu
Article Information
Language Disorders / Specific Language Impairment / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   August 01, 2004
The Comprehension of Wh-Questions in Children With Specific Language Impairment
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, August 2004, Vol. 47, 802-815. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2004/060)
History: Received March 7, 2003 , Accepted November 2, 2003
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, August 2004, Vol. 47, 802-815. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2004/060)
History: Received March 7, 2003; Accepted November 2, 2003
Web of Science® Times Cited: 45

Current theories of specific language impairment (SLI) in children fall into 2 general classes: those that attribute SLI to processing limitations and those that attribute the disorder to deficits in grammatical knowledge. In this study, the authors examined children's comprehension of subject and object Wh-questions because they offer the means of determining the relative contribution to performance of knowledge and of processing. Comprehension of subject and object Wh-questions presumably requires knowledge of grammatical movement. However, through manipulation of the length of the questions, it is also possible to vary the processing demands of the questions. If a simple deficit in knowledge of movement is involved, children should show poorer comprehension on object questions than on subject questions, regardless of sentence length. However, if processing limitations are involved, length should affect comprehension of object questions but not subject questions. Children with SLI and typically developing (TD) children matched on receptive vocabulary test scores participated in a comprehension task consisting of short and long subject and object Wh-questions. The two groups performed similarly on short questions, each showing high accuracy in both subject and object conditions. However, the children with SLI showed poorer performance on long object questions compared to long subject questions. They were also less accurate on long object questions than were children in the TD group. We argue that demands on linguistic processing abilities play an important role in the difficulties experienced by children with SLI.

Acknowledgment
The research in this paper was supported in part by Postdoctoral Training Fellowship T32 DC00030-10 and Research Grant R01 00-458 from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. We thank the children and families who participated and Carol Miller, Erika Gerber, Monique Charest, Leila Rauf, and Amanda Owen for their assistance during this project.
Order a Subscription
Pay Per View
Entire Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research content & archive
24-hour access
This Article
24-hour access