Syntactic Structural Assignment in Brazilian Portuguese-Speaking Children With Specific Language Impairment PurposeIn this study, the authors examined the comprehension of sentences with predicates and reflexives that are linked to a nonadjacent noun as a test of the hierarchical ordering deficit (HOD) hypothesis. That hypothesis and more modern versions posit that children with specific language impairment (SLI) have difficulty in establishing nonadjacent ... Article
Article  |   August 01, 2012
Syntactic Structural Assignment in Brazilian Portuguese-Speaking Children With Specific Language Impairment
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Claudia R. F. de Andrade
    Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil
  • Debora M. Befi-Lopes
    Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil
  • Arild Hestvik
    University of Delaware, Newark
  • Baila Epstein
    Brooklyn College, City University of New York
  • Lidiya Tornyova
    The Graduate Center, City University of New York
  • Richard G. Schwartz
    The Graduate Center, City University of New York
  • Correspondence to Talita Fortunato-Tavares: tfortunato@gc.cuny.edu
  • Editor: Janna Oetting
    Editor: Janna Oetting×
  • Associate Editor: Lisa Bedore
    Associate Editor: Lisa Bedore×
Article Information
Special Populations / Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / Language Disorders / Specific Language Impairment / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Language
Article   |   August 01, 2012
Syntactic Structural Assignment in Brazilian Portuguese-Speaking Children With Specific Language Impairment
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, August 2012, Vol. 55, 1097-1111. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2011/10-0215)
History: Received August 5, 2010 , Revised April 11, 2011 , Accepted December 11, 2011
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, August 2012, Vol. 55, 1097-1111. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2011/10-0215)
History: Received August 5, 2010; Revised April 11, 2011; Accepted December 11, 2011
Web of Science® Times Cited: 3

PurposeIn this study, the authors examined the comprehension of sentences with predicates and reflexives that are linked to a nonadjacent noun as a test of the hierarchical ordering deficit (HOD) hypothesis. That hypothesis and more modern versions posit that children with specific language impairment (SLI) have difficulty in establishing nonadjacent (hierarchical) relations among elements of a sentence. The authors also tested whether additional working memory demands in constructions containing reflexives affected the extent to which children with SLI incorrectly structure sentences as indicated by their picture-pointing comprehension responses.

MethodSixteen Brazilian Portuguese-speaking children (8;4–10;6 [years;months]) with SLI and 16 children with typical language development (TLD) matched for age (±3 months), gender, and socioeconomic status participated in 2 experiments (predicate and reflexive interpretation). In the reflexive experiment, the authors also manipulated working memory demands. Each experiment involved a 4-choice picture selection sentence comprehension task.

ResultsChildren with SLI were significantly less accurate on all conditions. Both groups made more hierarchical syntactic construction errors in the long working memory condition than in the short working memory condition.

ConclusionThe HOD hypothesis was not confirmed. For both groups, syntactic factors (structural assignment) were more vulnerable than lexical factors (prepositions) to working memory effects in sentence miscomprehension.

Acknowledgments
This research was supported by National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) Grant RO1DC003885 and Professional Staff Council, City University of New York Grant 62744-00 40, both awarded to the seventh author; a grant from Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel) (CAPES), awarded to the first author; and NIDCD Grant R03DC006175, awarded to the fourth author. We thank the children and families who participated, Fabiola Juste for recording the audio stimuli, and Hia Datta for drawing the picture stimuli. We are also grateful to Julio Singer for his contribution to data analysis.
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