Lexical–Semantic Organization in Children With Specific Language Impairment PurposeTo determine whether children with specific language impairment (SLI) show deficits in lexical–semantic organization and, if so, whether these deficits are commensurate with their delay in vocabulary size and whether the deficits affect all children with SLI.MethodFourteen children with SLI, 14 age matches (AM), and 14 expressive vocabulary matches (VM) ... Article
Article  |   February 01, 2010
Lexical–Semantic Organization in Children With Specific Language Impairment
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Li Sheng
    University of Iowa, Iowa City, and University of Texas–Austin
  • Karla K. McGregor
    University of Iowa, Iowa City, and University of Texas–Austin
  • Contact author: Li Sheng, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, University of Texas–Austin, One University Station A1100, Austin, TX 78712. E-mail: li.sheng@mail.utexas.edu.
Article Information
Language Disorders / Specific Language Impairment / Language
Article   |   February 01, 2010
Lexical–Semantic Organization in Children With Specific Language Impairment
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, February 2010, Vol. 53, 146-159. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2009/08-0160)
History: Received July 31, 2008 , Accepted April 14, 2009
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, February 2010, Vol. 53, 146-159. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2009/08-0160)
History: Received July 31, 2008; Accepted April 14, 2009
Web of Science® Times Cited: 58

PurposeTo determine whether children with specific language impairment (SLI) show deficits in lexical–semantic organization and, if so, whether these deficits are commensurate with their delay in vocabulary size and whether the deficits affect all children with SLI.

MethodFourteen children with SLI, 14 age matches (AM), and 14 expressive vocabulary matches (VM) generated 3 associations to each of 48 words. Associations were coded as semantic (e.g., dogpet), clang (e.g., cowhow), or erroneous (e.g., spoonDisney).

ResultsRelative to the AM children, children with SLI produced fewer semantic responses, more clangs, and more errors. Relative to the VM children, fewer semantic responses and more errors in the children with SLI were found in by-item analyses. Across elicitation trials, semantic responses decreased in the AM and VM children but remained stable in the SLI children. Examination of individual performance in the SLI group revealed that poor semantic performance was associated with a deficit in expressive vocabulary and a gap between receptive and expressive vocabularies.

ConclusionsSignificant variability in lexical–semantic organization skills exists among children with SLI. Deficits in lexical–semantic organization were demonstrated by a subgroup of children with SLI who likely had concomitant word-finding difficulties.

Acknowledgments
This work was supported by National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders Grant 2 R01 DC003698-06, awarded to the second author, and was part of a doctoral dissertation for a degree requirement at Northwestern University. We wish to thank Viorica Marian and Steve Zecker for serving on the dissertation committee; Amanda Berns and Gwyneth Rost for helping with data collection; Chi Xie for programming during data analysis; Allison Bean and Tracie Machetti for reliability coding; and Ling-Yu Guo, Amanda Owen, and Vanessa Shaw for discussion at every phase of the work. We thank the children and their families who participated in this study. Portions of the data were presented at the 28th and 29th Annual Symposium on Research in Child Language Disorders in Madison, WI.
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