The Role of Phonotactic Frequency in Sentence Repetition by Children With Specific Language Impairment

Coady, Jeffry A.; Evans, Julia L.; Kluender, Keith R.
October 2010
Journal of Speech, Language & Hearing Research;Oct2010, Vol. 53 Issue 5, p1401
Academic Journal
Purpose: Recent work suggests that specific language impairment (SLI) results from a primary deficit in phonological processing. This deficit is most striking in nonword repetition tasks, where semantic and syntactic demands are eliminated. Children with SLI repeat nonwords less accurately than do their unimpaired peers, which may reflect difficulty extracting phonological regularities from their lexicons. However, recent evidence suggests that having children with SLI respond to meaningless syllables such as nonwords underestimates their language abilities. Therefore, phonological processing was measured by having children repeat meaningful sentences containing target words differing in phonotactic pattern frequency (PPF). Method: Eighteen children with SLI (mean age = 9;0 [years;months]) and 18 age-matched controls repeated acoustically degraded sentences containing CVC target words differing in PPF, occurring in either subject position or sentence-final position. Results: Accuracy results revealed significant main effects due to group, PPF, and sentence position (sentence final > subject). Further, the nonsignificant Group × PPF interaction suggests that both groups of children were similarly affected by PPF. Conclusion: Children with SLI repeated CVC target words less accurately overall but showed similar sensitivity to PPF as typical controls, suggesting that PPF affects repetition of real words embedded in sentential contexts by both children with SLI and typically developing peers.


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