|Title:||The Role of Phonological Salience and Feature Interpretability in the Grammar of Typically Developing and Language Impaired Children||Add Dissertation|
|Author:||Maria Mastropavlou||Update Dissertation|
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|Institution:||Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Department of Linguistics|
|Abstract:||The aim of this thesis is to address two fundamental questions related to
the nature of specific language impairment: first, is the locus of the
problem in the representation of formal features and what is it that
renders them inaccessible to SLI children? And second, does language
development in SLI deviate from typical language acquisition in such a way
that we can talk about language impairment rather than language delay?
Three groups of children were recruited: an experimental group of ten
children with specific language impairment, aged between 4;2 and 5;9, and
two control groups selected based on chronological age (age-matched) and
language development (language-matched). The three groups were administered
a number of speech elicitation tests, aiming at the investigation of the
formal features of tense in the verbal domain, gender, case and number in
the nominal domain. Specifically, the effect of feature interpretability –
both LF and PF – on the children’s performance was explored, while
performance differences between the SLI and the two control groups were
analysed with respect to the delay/deviance question. The results indicated
that LF uninterpretable features like tense and case cause greater
difficulties to SLI children than number, an LF interpretable feature.
Gender, a lexical/intrinsic feature, seems to be highly accessible to these
children, who did not exhibit any notable difficulties. Furthermore, PF
interpretability presented strong effects in the SLI children’s performance
in tense marking, a pattern that was not observed in either of the two
control groups’ results.
These results suggest that LF interpretability determines the extent to
which formal features are accessible to SLI grammars, while PF
interpretability constitutes a means of compensation for an underlying
morphological deficit. Detailed analyses of the children’s error patterns
indicated that SLI children have reduced skills of acquiring morphological
features and depend on information available on a semantic, lexical or
phonological level to a greater extent than unaffected children do.
Finally, it is claimed that specific language impairment impedes on the
acquisition of the morphological expression of formal features rather than
their abstract representation, while the different error patterns exhibited
by the language-impaired group compared to the two control groups indicate
deviant rather than delayed development.