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Acquisition of verb meaning through syntactic cues: A comparison of children with autism, children with specific language impairment (SLI) and children with typical language development (TLD)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 April 2007

CORY SHULMAN
Affiliation:
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem, Israel
AINAT GUBERMAN
Affiliation:
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem, Israel

Abstract

The ability to extract meaning through the use of syntactic cues, adapted from Naigles' (1990) paradigm, was investigated in Hebrew-speaking children with autism, those with specific language impairment (SLI) and those with typical language development (TLD), in an attempt to shed light on similarities and differences between the two diagnostic categories, both defined by primary language deficits. Thirteen children with autism and 13 with SLI were matched on chronological age, level of language functioning and gender, and 13 children with TLD were matched to the children in the two clinical groups according to language level, as measured by the CELF-P. Children with autism and children with TLD learned novel words using the syntactical cues in the sentences in which they were presented, whereas children with SLI experienced more difficulty, learning only that which would be expected from chance according to the binomial test. Only 4 of the 13 children with SLI (31%) learned the new words, whereas 11 children with autism and 10 children with TLD learned the novel verb using syntactical cues from the sentence frame. The results are analyzed in terms of possible underlying mechanisms in language acquisition. Children with autism seem to rely on relatively intact syntactic abilities, while children with SLI seem to have marked impairment in using this mechanism in acquiring word meaning. Implications for future research and intervention with preschool children with primary language disorders are discussed.

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2007 Cambridge University Press

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Footnotes

This research was supported in part by a grant from Mofet Institute, Tel Aviv, Israel. Thanks to the educational staff, students and participants in the study.
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Acquisition of verb meaning through syntactic cues: A comparison of children with autism, children with specific language impairment (SLI) and children with typical language development (TLD)
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Acquisition of verb meaning through syntactic cues: A comparison of children with autism, children with specific language impairment (SLI) and children with typical language development (TLD)
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