Lexical Representations in Children With SLI: Evidence From a Frequency-Manipulated Gating Task

Mainela-Arnold, Elina; Evans, Julia L.; Coady, Jeffry A.
April 2008
Journal of Speech, Language & Hearing Research;Apr2008, Vol. 51 Issue 2, p381
Academic Journal
Purpose: This study investigated lexical representations of children with specific language impairment (SLI) and typically developing, chronological age-matched (CA) peers on a frequency-manipulated gating task. The study tested the hypothesis that children with SLI have holistic phonological representations of words, that is, that children with SLI would exhibit smaller effects of neighborhood density on gating durations than CA peers and that children with SLI would be as efficient as CA peers in accessing high-frequency words but that they would differ from their age-matched peers in accessing low-frequency words. Method: Thirty-two children (ages 8;5-12;3 [years;months]) participated: 16 children with SLI and 16 typically developing peers matched on age and nonverbal IQ. Children's word guesses after different gating durations were investigated. Results: Contrary to predictions, no group differences in effects of distributional regularity were found: Children in both groups required equally longer acoustic chunks to access words that were low in frequency and came from dense neighborhoods. However, children with SLI appeared to vacillate between multiple word candidates at significantly later gates when compared with children in the CA group. Conclusions: Children with SLI did not exhibit evidence for phonologically holistic lexical representations. Instead, they appeared more vulnerable to competing words.


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