Sentence Comprehension in Specific Language Impairment: A Task Designed to Distinguish Between Cognitive Capacity and Syntactic Complexity Purpose This study examined sentence comprehension in children with specific language impairment (SLI) in a manner designed to separate the contribution of cognitive capacity from the effects of syntactic structure. Method Nineteen children with SLI, 19 typically developing children matched for age (TD-A), and 19 younger typically developing ... Research Article
Research Article  |   April 01, 2013
Sentence Comprehension in Specific Language Impairment: A Task Designed to Distinguish Between Cognitive Capacity and Syntactic Complexity
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Laurence B. Leonard
    Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
  • Patricia Deevy
    Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
  • Marc E. Fey
    University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City
  • Shelley L. Bredin-Oja
    University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City
  • Correspondence to Laurence B. Leonard: xdxl@purdue.edu
  • Editor: Janna Oetting
    Editor: Janna Oetting×
  • Associate Editor: Ron Gillam
    Associate Editor: Ron Gillam×
Article Information
Language Disorders / Specific Language Impairment / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   April 01, 2013
Sentence Comprehension in Specific Language Impairment: A Task Designed to Distinguish Between Cognitive Capacity and Syntactic Complexity
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, April 2013, Vol. 56, 577-589. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2012/11-0254)
History: Received September 13, 2011 , Revised December 17, 2011 , Accepted July 17, 2012
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, April 2013, Vol. 56, 577-589. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2012/11-0254)
History: Received September 13, 2011; Revised December 17, 2011; Accepted July 17, 2012
Web of Science® Times Cited: 7

Purpose This study examined sentence comprehension in children with specific language impairment (SLI) in a manner designed to separate the contribution of cognitive capacity from the effects of syntactic structure.

Method Nineteen children with SLI, 19 typically developing children matched for age (TD-A), and 19 younger typically developing children (TD-Y) matched according to sentence comprehension test scores responded to sentence comprehension items that varied in either length or their demands on cognitive capacity, based on the nature of the foils competing with the target picture.

Results The TD-A children were accurate across all item types. The SLI and TD-Y groups were less accurate than the TD-A group on items with greater length and, especially, on items with the greatest demands on cognitive capacity. The types of errors were consistent with failure to retain details of the sentence apart from syntactic structure.

Conclusions The difficulty in the more demanding conditions seemed attributable to interference. Specifically, the children with SLI and the TD-Y children appeared to have difficulty retaining details of the target sentence when the information reflected in the foils closely resembled the information in the target sentence.

Acknowledgments
This research was supported by National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders Grants R01 DC009574 and P30 DC005803 and by National Institute on Child Health and Human Development Grant P30 HD002528. We thank Lisa Wisman Weil, Windi Krok, Johanna Hassink, and Leigh Hardy for their assistance during various phases of this project.
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