LINGUIST List 3.178

Tue 25 Feb 1992

Disc: Speech Pathology

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. "Ellen F. Prince", Re: 3.171 Language Deficit
  2. Ronnie Wilbur, Language, genes, and speech therapists
  3. mabel, Re: 3.171 Language Deficit
  4. 317, Mash potatoes

Message 1: Re: 3.171 Language Deficit

Date: Sat, 22 Feb 92 13:09:14 ESRe: 3.171 Language Deficit
From: "Ellen F. Prince" <>
Subject: Re: 3.171 Language Deficit

in support of the posting from jack <> on how
nonstandard dialects are 'diagnosed' as pathological, i'd like to
add my own experience as a student at brooklyn college in the
early 1960s. all (non-foreign) students were required to take a
speech course (speech 2.3--i'll never forget it) in which we had
to say a bunch of items like _today_ and _long island_ and _surface_
and all the jews and italians (i.e. the bulk of the students) were
'diagnosed' with things like 'central european accent' and 'lazy
tongue-tipped-down s' and 'n-g click'. the school was very proud
that a fair number of the speech professors were from iowa, which
they proclaimed to be the site of the 'best english'. to pass the
course, and to get a degree, one had to manage alveolar stops
as opposed to our native dental stops, etc (in citation form only,
thank god). the most extraordinary thing was that foreigners, with
*true* foreign accents, were *exempt* from speech 2.3. (my
then-boyfriend now-husband, having just arrived from egypt, was one
of them, and i was very envious.)

one amusing thing was that, for the 'n-g click', neither the professors
nor the students understood that, in our phonology, eng (which i
can't type on this keyboard--the final sound in standard english
_song_) was simply the allophone of /n/ before velars, and words
like _song_, _long_ ended in a velar stop for us. so, when they
told us to 'drop the g', _long_ became /lon/, i.e. homophonous with
_lawn_. so i, and many others, would say _lawn island_ at our
test and we'd pass... (it made sense to me since long island
was full of lawns.)

beware of the language pathology diagnosticians. when someone finds
some english speakers with random word order, i'll believe the
grammar gene.
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Message 2: Language, genes, and speech therapists

Date: Sat, 22 Feb 92 18:25:45 ESLanguage, genes, and speech therapists
From: Ronnie Wilbur <WILBURPURCCVM.bitnet>
Subject: Language, genes, and speech therapists

A recent posting from "jack <" demonstrates a continuing
myth that may also explain why linguists don't get much appreciation from
the media either. Apparently the person who posted this repsonse is not
aware of the massive improvement in training of speech-language pathologists
over the past decade or so. I am a linguist (theoretical phonologist who used
to work on American Indian languages but now work on ASL) in a department of
audiology and speech sciences (read that: speech and hearing). I teach those
future students (who are NOT in a school of education) their first course on
linguistics, which is required for them. They learn about dialect tolerance,
and I tell them many horror stories of the kind related in the posting,
precisely as a warning of what kinds of mistakes they too could make if they
don't learn the material well. Their phonetics course is taught by another
linguist, Jack Gandour, a UCLA Ph.D. under Ladefoged. Their langauge develop-
ment and language disorders courses are also taught by people who are members
of the LSA. While our department may be somewhat ahead of others (we
like to think so), the coursework and content is not unusual, in the sense that
these people have to pass a national test and fulfill certification requirement
at the graduate level set by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
While this does not mean that such horror stories do not still occur, it
certainly indicates that certain ideas about people who work with language
and speech disorders persist despite evidence to the contrary.

And in the end, of course, it has no bearing on the question of whether there
is a gene for language, as nicely stated in joel stemberger's subsequent
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Message 3: Re: 3.171 Language Deficit

Date: Sun, 23 Feb 92 17:50:32 CSRe: 3.171 Language Deficit
From: mabel <MABELUKANVM.bitnet>
Subject: Re: 3.171 Language Deficit

This is in reply to two of the postings of Feb 19.

For "Jack" who was concerned about the quotation attributed to Gopnik
about past tense missing in SLI individuals, and the possible confusion
between disorder and dialect, and the possible mislabelling of
children as "impaired" on the basis of dialectal difference--

I note that Professor Gopnik is a linguist, not a speech/language
pathologist, so this example does not support the sweeping conclusions
drawn about speech/language pathologists. I am happy to report
that the pathologists are, of course, well informed about the distinction.
An expert source is Lorraine Cole, head of Multicultural Issues at the
national office of the American Speech & Hearing Association, 301-897
5700. She can provide cc of multiple official guidelines and position
statements developed over the last decade or so, along with the rather
extensive reference lists that support the guidelines. It would be a
gross misrepresentation to allege that speech clinicians are ignorant
on this issue. I am sure that Dr. Cole will be pleased to update the
commentator. Another inaccuracy in the posting was the assertion that
speech therapists come from schools of education. I am not sure which
profession that remark was intended to insult, but, just for the record,
academic departments for the training of speech/language pathologists
are often regarded as part of the behavioral sciences and based in the
Liberal Arts (as they are here at Kansas), or, alternatively, they can
be regarded as part of the field of allied health, and based in medical
schools. Much of the basic research is funded by NIH, and is reviewed
by panelists from the behavioral sciences.

The main point is that if we are to arrive at a satisfactory interpretation
of the specific language impairment issue, and the possible role of
genetic factors, we will need information from several disciplines,
including sound clinical description. Discipline bashing probably won't
contribute much to the cross-disciplinary effort.

The second posting of interest was that of Joe Stemberger's. I support
his thoughtful remarks, and the observation that specific language
impairment is often multidimensional, in that phonology and morphology
can both be impaired, as they are in the Gopnik subjects. I offer two
additional complications. Lexical acquisition can also be affected, with
a delayed onset of first words and restricted lexicons subsequently. That
also seems to characterize the Gopnik subjects. The second observation is that
the assertion by Stemberger to the effect that morph deficits are invariably
accompanied by phono deficits is too strong. There are individuals who have
problems with morphology whose phonological system seems to be intact. We
don't yet have definitive epidemiological data on the association of
phonological and morphological impairment, although Bruce Tomblin of the
U of Iowa is currently collecting relevant data. For a few years now we
have been successful in locating SLI children who are selected for
intelligible speech (generally intact phonology) and impaired morph and
lexical acquisition. Thus, the 100+ subjects in our sample offer
presumptive evidence of some dissociation of phonology and morph/lexical.
In this sample, the SLI children show control of plurals, relative to their
language-matched comparison group, a finding not predicted by Gopnik's
assertion that SLI individuals are missing plurals. On the other hand,
the SLI children show problems with agreement, a finding also reported by
Clahsen for German-speaking children.

All of which is to echo the point that the SLI story is likely to be
complicated, and will pose interesting problems for current models of
language acquisition.

Mabel Rice
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Message 4: Mash potatoes

Date: Sat, 22 Feb 92 16:17 EST
From: 317 <>
Subject: Mash potatoes

A recent posting (by Jack, JAREAUKCC.UKy.EDU) complained about the recent
press coverage of a study of people who have trouble with English inflection,
calling it an instance of language impairment. One of his examples was
"Mash potatoes", supposedly representing an alternative morphological
system. I've never seen that particular construct, although I'm from the
South myself, but very common all over is "Ice tea". I always interpreted
that as stemming from inability to retain the morphology in the face of
the phonology of the "tt" cluster, which won't be retained. In this case
there is a reasonable reanalysis; "mash potatoes" would be a little
weirder, but might still be phonological, simply a spelling of the
reduced pronunciation. The point is, I wonder whether this example
really reflects any alternative system at all, or merely appears as a
"pronunciation spelling".
 George Fowler GFowlerIUBACS.Bitnet
 Dept. of Slavic Languages GFowlerUCS.Indiana.EDU
 Indiana University (812) 855-2829 [office]
 Ballantine 502 (812) 855-2624 [dept.]
 Bloomington, IN 47405 USA (317) 571-9471 [home]
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