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Department of Psychology, Health and Professional Development
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
Verb use and the production of verb argument structure in the written texts of children in elementary school is a key stepping stone towards academic writing success that has remained relatively unexplored and is a notable gap in our understanding of writing development. To evaluate the role of verbs in the written narrative texts of children, we compared verb use in 10 year old children that had specific weaknesses in oral language, those with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD), and samples of children of the same age (CA) and the same raw scores on an oral language task (language ability or LAb). Standardised measures of oral language, reading fluency, and spelling were completed. Participants then completed a standardised writing task and the texts were examined for verb argument structure, verb production and verb diversity. No between-group differences were found in the written narrative texts in relation to the production of verb argument structures. By contrast, the number of verbs produced, and the number of different verbs used differed significantly. The total number of verbs and number of different verbs produced by the children with DLD was commensurate with their LAb peers but not their CA matched peers. All children relied on a small group of high frequency verbs in their writing, although there was evidence of greater verb diversity in the older typically developing children. Verbs produced and their diversity in narrative writing was predicted by both an oral language formulated sentences task and reading fluency, thus demonstrating the close links between expressive oral language, reading, and writing production in all children.
Background: Morpho-syntax has been well researched in Specific Language Impairment (SLI) and there is general agreement that children with SLI have particular difficulties with tense marking. Less well researched is the role that aspect plays in the difficulties found in tense marking, especially as tense and aspect are often confounded in English. Initial investigation of the understanding of aspect in preschool children with SLI suggests that they are less sensitive to aspect and its interaction with tense than Typically Developing (TD) children. It is unclear however what the developmental trajectory of their understanding of aspect is and its interaction with tense and whether these difficulties are still found in older children and adolescents with SLI.
Aims: To investigate comprehension of the grammatical aspect contrast between completed events using the simple past tense –ed/irregular (perfective grammatical aspect) and on-going events using the past progressive (imperfective grammatical aspect). The role of lexical aspect was also investigated through the balanced use of verbs that were inherently telic (i.e. have a natural end-point) and verbs that required the addition of prepositional phrase for a telic interpretation when used in the perfective aspect condition.
Methods and procedures: A sentence–picture matching task was administered to 10 participants with SLI (aged 12;10 – 16;8 years) and 30 language ability matched TD children who were split into three groups (mean ages: 5;10, 7;4 and 9;2).
Outcomes and results: Adult-like performance was found by all groups on the perfective aspect condition but only by the oldest group of TD children on the imperfective aspect condition. The performance of the group with SLI was consistent with their much younger language ability matched TD children in their understanding of the progressive –ing when used to describe on-going events that have taken place in the past. The lexical aspect of the telicity of the verbs was not found to have any significant effect on performance.
Conclusions and implications: Although further investigation of the understanding of aspect (both comprehension and production) is needed, the results have implications for therapy. The past progressive –ing construction is important, particularly for providing context and background information in narratives, but it is not explicitly taught in schools. Therefore, some focus on the temporal nature of tense marking in therapy may be beneficial to individuals with SLI in understanding the temporal nature of events and how aspect interacts with tense.
This study investigates phonetic categorisation and cue weighting in adolescents and young adults with Specific Language Impairment (SLI). We manipulated two acoustic cues, vowel duration and F1 offset frequency, that signal word-final stop consonant voicing ([t] and [d]) in English. Ten individuals with SLI (14;0-21;4 years), ten age-matched controls (CA; 14;6-21;9 years) and ten non-matched Adult controls (23;3-36;0 years) labelled synthetic CVC nonwords in an identification task. The results showed that the adolescents and young adults with SLI were less consistent than controls in the identification of the good category representatives. The group with SLI also assigned less weight to vowel duration than the Adult controls. However, no direct relationship between phonetic categorisation, cue weighting and language skills was found. These findings indicate that some individuals with SLI have speech perception deficits but they are not necessarily associated with oral language skills.
There are two major types of reading disorder; developmental dyslexia and reading comprehension impairment. The primary difficulty in dyslexia is with the accurate and fluent reading of single words, whilst in reading comprehension impairment words can be read accurately but there is no or little understanding of what is read. Using the causal modelling framework, the underlying causes of the two disorders are reviewed together with the co-occurrence of reading and language disorders. The rationale for viewing reading as a dimensional disorder, where the difficulties experienced are on a continuum rather than using cut-off points to identify disorders is also reviewed.