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Narrative as an index of communicative competence in mildly mentally retarded children

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 November 2008

Lowry Hemphill
Harvard University
Nancy Picardi
University of Massachusetts at Boston
Helen Tager-Flusberg*
University of Massachusetts at Boston
Helen Tager-Flusberg, Department of Psychology, University of Massachusetts, Boston, MA 02125-3393


This study compared the narrative abilities of mildly mentally retarded and nonretarded children. Twenty mildly mentally retarded children and 20 nonretarded children, matched on mental age, PPVT-R scores, and SES were audiotaped while narrating a wordless picture book story. Results showed no differences between the groups in narrative length, use of tense and conjunctions, and use of narrative devices. However, there were significant differences in use of reference, with the mildly retarded children using more definite article + noun character introductions, showing more pronoun confusion, and more often pronominalizing all references to the story protagonist. Control of reference in narrative is discussed as presenting a particularly challenging set of discourse abilities because it requires the child to integrate knowledge across a number of linguistic and nonlinguistic domains.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1991

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