Comprehension of Inferences in Discourse Processing by Adolescents With and Without Language Impairment PurposeThis study investigated inference construction within spoken narratives in adolescents with varying cognitive and language abilities, using W. Kintsch’s (1988)  construction-integration model as a framework. The role of working memory in inference construction was examined along with language and nonverbal cognition.MethodParticipants were 527 eighth-grade students in 4 diagnostic groups: normal ... Article
Article  |   October 01, 2010
Comprehension of Inferences in Discourse Processing by Adolescents With and Without Language Impairment
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Courtney Karasinski
    University of Wisconsin—Madison
  • Susan Ellis Weismer
    University of Wisconsin—Madison
  • Contact author: Courtney Karasinski, Waisman Center, Communicative Disorders, University of Wisconsin—Madison, 1500 Highland Avenue, Madison, WI 53705. E-mail: karasinski@wisc.edu.
Article Information
Language Disorders / Specific Language Impairment / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Language
Article   |   October 01, 2010
Comprehension of Inferences in Discourse Processing by Adolescents With and Without Language Impairment
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, October 2010, Vol. 53, 1268-1279. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2009/09-0006)
History: Received January 13, 2009 , Revised July 16, 2009 , Accepted December 1, 2009
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, October 2010, Vol. 53, 1268-1279. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2009/09-0006)
History: Received January 13, 2009; Revised July 16, 2009; Accepted December 1, 2009
Web of Science® Times Cited: 21

PurposeThis study investigated inference construction within spoken narratives in adolescents with varying cognitive and language abilities, using W. Kintsch’s (1988)  construction-integration model as a framework. The role of working memory in inference construction was examined along with language and nonverbal cognition.

MethodParticipants were 527 eighth-grade students in 4 diagnostic groups: normal language (NL), low cognitive (LC), specific language impairment (SLI), and nonspecific language impariment (NLI). Participants answered premise and inference questions based on adjacent and distant information.

ResultsDistant inferences were significantly more difficult than were adjacent inferences. When controlling for premise accuracy, the NL group performed significantly better than each of the other groups on distant inferences. The LC group demonstrated significantly higher accuracy on distant inferences than did the NLI group. Regression analyses revealed that performance on a verbal working memory measure predicted unique variance in distant inference accuracy beyond that accounted for by measures of language and nonverbal cognition.

ConclusionsUnderstanding implicit information, particularly when linking distant information, is difficult for adolescents who are deficient in language comprehension, verbal working memory skills, and/or general world knowledge.

Acknowledgments
Primary funding for this research was provided by National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) Grant P50 DC02746 (Collaboration on Specific Language Impairment; J. Bruce Tomblin, Director; S. Ellis Weismer, subcontract principal investigator). Additional sources of support for this project consisted of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Grant P30 HD03352 (Waisman Center core grant) and NIDCD Grant T32DC005359. We would like to offer special thanks to Marlea O’Brien and Heather Lohmeier for their assistance, the examiners who administered the task, and the adolescents who participated in this project.
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