Developmental Change Is Key to Understanding Primary Language Impairment: The Case of Phonotactic Probability and Nonword Repetition PurposeIn this study, the authors aimed to explore the relationship between lexical and phonological knowledge in children with primary language impairment (PLI) through the application of a developmental methodology. Specifically, they tested whether there is evidence for an impairment in the process of phonological abstraction in this group of children ... Article
Article  |   October 01, 2013
Developmental Change Is Key to Understanding Primary Language Impairment: The Case of Phonotactic Probability and Nonword Repetition
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Cristina McKean
    Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom
  • Carolyn Letts
    Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom
  • David Howard
    Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom
  • Correspondence to Cristina McKean: cristina.mckean@ncl.ac.uk
  • Editor and Associate Editor: Janna Oetting
    Editor and Associate Editor: Janna Oetting×
Article Information
Development / Language Disorders / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Language
Article   |   October 01, 2013
Developmental Change Is Key to Understanding Primary Language Impairment: The Case of Phonotactic Probability and Nonword Repetition
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, October 2013, Vol. 56, 1579-1594. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2013/12-0066)
History: Received February 27, 2012 , Revised August 11, 2012 , Accepted January 11, 2013
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, October 2013, Vol. 56, 1579-1594. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2013/12-0066)
History: Received February 27, 2012; Revised August 11, 2012; Accepted January 11, 2013
Web of Science® Times Cited: 8

PurposeIn this study, the authors aimed to explore the relationship between lexical and phonological knowledge in children with primary language impairment (PLI) through the application of a developmental methodology. Specifically, they tested whether there is evidence for an impairment in the process of phonological abstraction in this group of children over and above that which would be predicted by their vocabulary growth.

MethodThe authors measured developmental change in the abilities of typically developing (TD) children (n = 38, chronological age [CA] = 3;0–5;6 [years;months]) and those with PLI (n = 13, CA = 3;0–6;6 and 4;6–8;0) to repeat nonwords with high and low phonotactic probability (PP) to uncover group differences in the process of abstraction of phonological representations.

ResultsCross-sectional developmental trajectories of change in nonword repetition abilities were compared across CA and vocabulary growth. Unlike TD children, the children with PLI did not evince a narrowing gap in the influence of PP across development, and they reached a plateau in their development.

ConclusionThese results suggest slowed emergence of phonological representations in PLI, with a plateau in the development of lexical–phonological representations. This plateau may represent entrenchment and “fixing” due to a missed critical period and/or atypical word learning biases in PLI.

Acknowledgments
Thanks go to the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) in the United Kingdom for funding this research and the larger study of which it is a part; to the families, children, schools, and speech and language therapists in the North of England who participated; and to James Law for his helpful comments on an earlier draft of this article.
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