The Use of Tense and Agreement by Hungarian-Speaking Children With Language Impairment Purpose Hungarian is a null-subject language with both agglutinating and fusional elements in its verb inflection system, and agreement between the verb and object as well as between the verb and subject. These characteristics make this language a good test case for alternative accounts of the grammatical deficits of children ... Research Article
Research Article  |   February 01, 2009
The Use of Tense and Agreement by Hungarian-Speaking Children With Language Impairment
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • ágnes Lukács
    HAS-BME Cognitive Science Research Group, Budapest, Hungary, and Research Institute of Linguistics, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest
  • Laurence B. Leonard
    Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
  • Bence Kas
    Budapest University of Technology and Economics, Hungary, and Eötvös Loránd University of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary
  • Csaba Pléh
    Budapest University of Technology, Hungary
  • Contact author: ágnes Lukács, who is now with the Department of Cognitive Science, Budapest University of Technology and Economics, H-1111 Budapest, Hungary, Stoczek 2. ágnes Lukács is also with the Research Institute of Linguistics, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary. E-mail: alukacs@cogsci.bme.hu.
Article Information
Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / Language Disorders / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   February 01, 2009
The Use of Tense and Agreement by Hungarian-Speaking Children With Language Impairment
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, February 2009, Vol. 52, 98-117. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2008/07-0183)
History: Received August 8, 2007 , Revised December 18, 2007 , Accepted June 23, 2008
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, February 2009, Vol. 52, 98-117. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2008/07-0183)
History: Received August 8, 2007; Revised December 18, 2007; Accepted June 23, 2008
Web of Science® Times Cited: 16

Purpose Hungarian is a null-subject language with both agglutinating and fusional elements in its verb inflection system, and agreement between the verb and object as well as between the verb and subject. These characteristics make this language a good test case for alternative accounts of the grammatical deficits of children with language impairment (LI).

Method Twenty-five children with LI and 25 younger children serving as vocabulary controls (VC) repeated sentences whose verb inflections were masked by a cough. The verb inflections marked distinctions according to tense, person, number, and definiteness of the object.

Results The children with LI were significantly less accurate than the VC children but generally showed the same performance profile across the inflection types. For both groups of children, the frequency of occurrence of the inflection in the language was a significant predictor of accuracy level. The two groups of children were also similar in their pattern of errors. Inflections produced in place of the correct inflection usually differed from the correct form on a single dimension (e.g., tense or definiteness), though no single dimension was consistently problematic.

Conclusions Accounts that assume problems specific to agreement do not provide an explanation for the observed pattern of findings. The findings are generally compatible with accounts that assume processing limitations in children with LI, such as the morphological richness account. One nonmorphosyntactic factor (the retention of sequences of sounds) appeared to be functionally related to inflection accuracy and may prove to be important in a language with numerous inflections such as Hungarian.

Acknowledgments
This research was supported by Grant R01 DC00458 from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders to Laurence B. Leonard and by Grant OTKA TS 049840 from the Hungarian National Science Foundation to Csaba Pléh. We would like to thank Anna Babarczy, Huba Bartos, and Péter Rebrus for their valuable help and suggestions on the article.
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