The production of relative clauses in syntactic SLI: A window to the nature of the impairment

Rama Novogrodsky, Naama Friedmann*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

124 Citations (Scopus)


The study explored the ability of children with syntactic SLI (S-SLI) to produce relative clauses, using two structured elicitation tasks. A preference task and a picture description task were used to elicit subject and object relative clauses. The participants were 18 Hebrew-speaking children with S-SLI aged 9;3-14;6, and the control group included 28 typically developing children aged 7;6-11;0. The rate of target responses as well as the types of other responses the S-SLI group produced were analysed and compared to the control group. The results of both tasks indicated that the children with S-SLI had a deficit in the production of object relatives. Their production of subject relatives was better, though below the performance of the control group. Several response types were used exclusively by the S-SLI group: avoidance of object relatives and production of subject relatives and simple sentences instead, thematic role errors and thematic role reduction. Importantly, the S-SLI children did not omit complementizers, nor did they make other structural errors. These results suggest that the deficit is related to thematic role assignment to moved constituents, and not to a structural deficit in embedding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)364-375
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Speech-Language Pathology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Hebrew
  • production
  • Relative clauses
  • specific language impairment
  • syntax


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