University of Limerick
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Verb alternations and event structure in children with specific language impairment compared with typically developing children. What can we learn from the story of Cinderella?

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posted on 2013-12-20, 14:50 authored by Jennifer Whelan, Carol-Anne Murphy
Background: Children with Specific Language Impairment (CwSLI) demonstrate difficulties with verb knowledge, verb argument production and sentence structure. There is a lack of evidence around the processing and production of event structure by CwSLI and research is equivocal whether CwSLI demonstrate difficulty with verb alternations. Aims: The study aimed to establish whether verb alternations and event structure complexity are contributing to the aforementioned difficulties in CwSLI, and whether verb knowledge has a role in event structure complexity. The study also aimed to investigate the usefulness of a Cinderella narrative for assessment. Methods and Procedures: Secondary data analysis of Cinderella narratives from 65 typically developing children (TDC) (3; 02 – 10; 09) and 17 CwSLI (6; 05 – 10; 01) was undertaken. A between-groups comparison on verb alternations and the complexity of event structure produced was run between CwSLI and subgroups of younger and older TDC and a verb comprehension matched group. Outcomes and Results: The number of alternations was insufficient to warrant statistical analysis. Older TDC used a significantly higher number of simple event structures than CwSLI, but there was no difference in complex event structures produced. No significant difference was found between CwSLI and the verb comprehension control group in event structure produced. All children used more simple event structure verbs overall. Conclusions and Implications: The results of the event structure analyses indicate that all children may be using the most parsimonious way of describing events. The results support the idea that poor verb knowledge and event structure complexity are related in CwSLI. Difficulty with event conceptualisation may have a cascading effect onto the lexical representation of a verb and consequently limit the range of syntactic structures available. The Cinderella narrative is a useful clinical tool for investigating verb production, given the comparable samples in terms of number of utterances, but it is not considered a useful tool for eliciting data on verb alternations.



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