The comprehension and production of Wh-questions in deaf and hard-of-hearing children

Naama Friedmann*, Ronit Szterman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


Hearing loss during the critical period for language acquisition restricts spoken language input. This input limitation, in turn, may hamper syntactic development. This study examined the comprehension, production, and repetition of Wh-questions in deaf or hard-of-hearing (DHH) children. The participants were 11 orally trained Hebrew-speaking children aged 9.1-12.4 with moderate-to-profound hearing loss from birth, who consistently used hearing aids or cochlear implants and who had difficulties understanding relative clauses. Experiment 1 tested the comprehension of Wh-questions using a picture selection task, comparing subject with object questions and who- with which-questions; Experiment 2 tested the production of subject and object who-questions using an elicitation task; and Experiment 3 tested the repetition of Wh-questions and other structures derived by Wh-movement. All the DHH participants showed difficulty in the comprehension, production, and repetition of object questions, and their performance was significantly below that of hearing children. In contrast, they repeated embedded sentences without movement well, indicating that their deficit is in syntactic movement rather than embedding or the CP node in the syntactic tree. The results provide additional evidence that DHH children have difficulties with Wh-movement and emphasize that Wh-questions, which are crucial for communication, can be severely impaired in these children.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)212-235
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


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