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Some influences on the grammar of English- and Italian-speaking children with specific language impairment

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 November 2008

Laurence B. Leonard*
Purdue University
Letizia Sabbadini
Virginia Volterra
Istituto di Psicologia, CNR, Rome
Jeanette S. Leonard
Purdue University
Laurence B. Leonard Audiology & Speech Sciences, Heavilon Hall, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, U.S.A.


The spontaneous speech of both English-speaking (E) and Italian-speaking (I) children with specific language impairment (SLI) was examined to determine (a) whether phonological factors influence the grammatical morpheme use of ISLI children, as has been found for ESLI children, and (b) whether ESLI and ISLI children show similar syntactic abilities at the same level of mean utterance length as measured in words. The results indicated that word-final consonants adversely influenced the ISLI children's tendency to use articles – the only Italian grammatical morphemes in which word-final consonants are required. There was no evidence of syntactic differences between the ESLI and ISLI children. However, both groups of children seemed to have a problem using morphemes that constituted unstressed elements in a sentence even though the grammatical and semantic function of these elements varied across the two languages. The findings suggest that a speech production or perception component may be playing a greater role than previously believed in contributing to SLI children's well-documented expressive grammatical difficulties, though the specific effects of this factor will vary as a function of the surface characteristics of the language being acquired.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1988

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