Probing morphological, syntactic and pragmatic knowledge through answers to wh-questions in children with SLI

Kelly Rombough*, Rosalind Thornton

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Abstract

    Purpose: This study investigated aspects of morphology, syntax and pragmatics in children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI). These areas of language were investigated by evaluating children’s answers to wh-questions. Method: Elicited production methodology was used to evoke answers to three types of wh-questions. There were 54 participants: 18 children with SLI (mean age = 5;3); 18 language-matched children matched on mean length of utterance (mean age = 3;4) and 18 age-matched children (mean age = 5;3). Result: The SLI group demonstrated comprehension of the wh-questions, as revealed by their answers using the appropriate syntactic category. Children with SLI also demonstrated knowledge of pragmatics by using a pronoun to refer to a discourse referent that was previously introduced as a full noun phrase. Unlike the control children, children with SLI did not show sensitivity to one measure of the Maxim of Quantity; they gave more full sentence answers to wh-questions in contexts when most speakers would give a shorter, fragment answer. The tense-related morphology was also frequently omitted from children’s answers. Conclusion: The experiment revealed that children with SLI did well on syntactic and pragmatic measures. The greatest challenge was in providing tense-related morphemes in their answers to questions.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)284-294
    Number of pages11
    JournalInternational Journal of Speech-Language Pathology
    Volume20
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018

    Keywords

    • grammatical knowledge
    • SLI
    • wh-questions

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