Development of Verbal Passive in Williams Syndrome PurposeTo experimentally investigate knowledge of passives of actional (hold) and psychological (love) verbs in children with Williams syndrome (WS). Passives are usually reported to be in line with mental age in WS. However, studies usually focus on passives of actional verbs only.MethodTwenty-six children with WS, ages 6–16, and 3 groups ... Article
Article  |   October 01, 2010
Development of Verbal Passive in Williams Syndrome
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Alexandra Perovic
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge
  • Kenneth Wexler
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge
  • Contact author: Alexandra Perovic, who is now with the Division of Psychology and Language Sciences, University College London, Chandler House, 2 Wakefield Street, London WC1N 1PF, United Kingdom. E-mail: a.perovic@ucl.ac.uk.
Article Information
Special Populations / Genetic & Congenital Disorders / Language Disorders / Social Communication & Pragmatics Disorders / Language
Article   |   October 01, 2010
Development of Verbal Passive in Williams Syndrome
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, October 2010, Vol. 53, 1294-1306. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2009/07-0188)
History: Received August 12, 2007 , Revised April 13, 2008 , Accepted December 28, 2009
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, October 2010, Vol. 53, 1294-1306. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2009/07-0188)
History: Received August 12, 2007; Revised April 13, 2008; Accepted December 28, 2009
Web of Science® Times Cited: 8

PurposeTo experimentally investigate knowledge of passives of actional (hold) and psychological (love) verbs in children with Williams syndrome (WS). Passives are usually reported to be in line with mental age in WS. However, studies usually focus on passives of actional verbs only.

MethodTwenty-six children with WS, ages 6–16, and 3 groups of typically developing controls, ages 3;6–14;4 (years;months), individually matched to the WS group on nonverbal reasoning, receptive vocabulary, or grammar, participated. Their comprehension of actives and short and long passives (with and without the by-phrase) was tested using a sentence–picture-matching task.

ResultsChildren with WS performed well above chance on passives of actional verbs but extremely poorly on passives of psychological verbs (short and long). Furthermore, their performance on both types of passives was worse than that of matched controls.

ConclusionsThe results reveal a previously unreported deficiency in the domain of syntax in WS, suggesting a particular difficulty with the structure of the verbal passive, not directly related to general levels of nonverbal abilities, receptive vocabulary, or general comprehension of grammar. It is argued that the difficulty in the formation of verbal passives in WS stems from a deficit in forming argument chains.

Acknowledgments
This research was supported by the Anne and Paul Marcus Family Foundation to the Brain Development and Disorders Project, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. We thank all of the participants and their families, the Williams Syndrome Association (WSA), and the regional chapters of WSA in New England and Florida. We also thank all of the students in the Wexler Lab for help with collecting data; Christopher Hirsch for very helpful discussions; Nadya Modyanova, who has been a partner in much of our research on WS, for all the data collection, analysis, ideas, and support that she has provided; and Andrea Zukowski and Carolyn B. Mervis and their teams for their assistance with recruiting at WSA conventions and sharing ideas. Sincere thanks are also due to Mabel Rice, Vesna Stojanovik, Neil Smith, and Flavia Adani for insightful advice on a preliminary draft of the article; Vikki Janke, who read different versions of the article in detail and gave many valuable suggestions; and audiences at the conferences where the some of the findings were presented (conferences included First Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition North America [Honolulu, HI, December 2004]; Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition 2005 [University of Siena, Italy, September 2005]; and the 30th Annual Boston University Conference on Child Language Development [Boston, MA, November 2005]).
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