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Conclusions

Conclusions

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Conclusions

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  1. Differences in the Language Input of Children with Specific Language Impairments Compared to their MLU-Matched Siblings Roberta Corrigan, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Introduction Transitive and Intransitive Motion Constructions Transitive (Caused) Motion Construction = (Subj), V, Obj, Obliquepath/location X causes Y to move Zpath/location Example: We’ve got to put it on here. Intransitive Motion Construction = (Subj), V, Obliquepath/location X moves to Y Example: This goes there. Methods Participants There were 9 mothers in the data set, taken from the CHILDES (MacWhinney, 2000) clinical corpora, Conti-Ramsden 1 and 2 (Conti-Ramsden & Dykins, 1991; Conti-Ramsden, Hutcheson, & Grove, 1995; Conti-Ramsden & Jones, 1997). Mother child interactions had been videotaped during free play. Child-directed speech (CDS) of the mothers to their children with SLI (mean age = 6;3, mean MLU = 1.93) was compared to CDS to the younger MLU matched siblings (mean age= 2;8 mean MLU = 1.81 ). Data Reduction All sessions from the cross-sectional data set were included. The first session in the longitudinal data set where the MLU was approximately 2.00 for the child with SLI and the closest sibling session in which the MLU was within .5 MLU of the target child were included. Data for the three children who had two sessions in which their MLUs were 2.00-2.5 were combined in order to increase the size of the total sample of data. Maternal single-word utterances were excluded, as were fragments that did not contain verbs. Utterances that were complex sentences containing more than one main verb were split into clauses. All maternal utterances were coded by the author as to whether they were transitive or intransitive motion constructions, other transitive or intransitive constructions, or copula constructions. A second coder examined a sample of the utterances. The average reliability between the two coders was .95. Conclusions Results • Comparison of Transitive and Intransitive Motion Constructions • Mothers produced fewer intransitive motion constructions than • expected to Sibs and more than expected to the group with SLI. • Mothers produced more transitive motion constructions than • expected to Sibs and fewer than expected to the group with SLI. • Χ2 (1) = 8.61, p = .003. • Type-Token Ratios for Intransitive Motion Constructions • Mothers’ type-token ratios for intransitive motion constructions were • not significantly different between the two groups (means= .38 SLI, • .29 SIB). • Neither the number of types of intransitive verbs used in the • constructions (means = 6.11 SLI, 6.67 SIB) nor the number of tokens • (mean=19.33 SLI, 23.44 SIB) differed between groups. • Type-Token Ratios for Transitive Motion Constructions • In contrast, mothers’ type token ratios for the transitive motion • constructions did differ, t (16) = 2.83, p =.01, with the SLI group • hearing significantly more diverse speech (means= .52 SLI, .29 SIB). • The number of types was approximately equal across the two groups • (means = 5.78 SLI, 7.22 SIB), but the siblings heard almost twice as • many tokens as the SLI group (Means = 13.44 SLI , 25.33 SIB). The results raise intriguing questions about the effect of the input on children with SLI. Children with SLI in this sample heard fewer tokens of the transitive motion construction while hearing the same number of types as their younger, typically developing siblings. This had the effect of producing more diversity in the input, which could conceivably hamper language acquisition. The effect was construction specific, occurring with the transitive motion construction, but not the intransitive motion construction. English-speaking children who are typically developing first acquire item-specific patterns (e.g. put it in) and their meanings as a whole, then develop semi-fixed patterns with open slots (e.g., X it in) , which they may eventually analyze into more abstract grammatical constructions ((Subj), V, Obj, Obliquepath/location). According to usage-based theorists (e.g., Clark and Kelly, 2006; Cameron-Faulkner et al, 2003; Tomasello, 2003; Lieven, 2006; Peters, in press), both the content of constructions in the input and their frequencies are critical to acquisition. Goldberg and Casenhiser (2006) presented evidence that skewed input, which initially exposes children to less diversity within particular constructions, may facilitate learning of those constructions. Much less is known about the information available in the input to children with language impairments (but see Riches, Faragher & Conti-Ramsden, 2006). The research question addressed in the current study is whether children with SLI experience a more diverse linguistic input than typically developing children. This diversity could produce difficulty in learning. Specifically, the current study examined two linguistic constructions, intransitive motion e.g. Mary goes to the store, and caused motion, e.g. Mary put the baby in the crib, in the child-directed speech of mothers to their children with SLI and their younger MLU-matched siblings. What is a construction? A construction is a form-meaning pairing that expresses the basic propositions of a language. It is any linguistic pattern that is not fully predictable from its component parts (Goldberg, 2006). Constructions themselves carry meaning independent of the lexical items they contain. For example, the transitive-motion construction, He kicked the ball into the wall, can be interpreted to mean that He caused the ball to move into the wall. However, there is nothing in the verb kick that requires that its object be caused to move, as shown in the pattern He kicked the wall. References Cameron-Faulkner, T., Lieven, E., & Tomasello, M. (2003). A construction based analysis of child directed speech. Cognitive Science: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 27(6), 843-873. Clark, E. and Kelly, S. (2006) Constructions and acquisition. In E. Clark and S. Kelly (eds). Constructions and acquisition. Stanford: CSLI. Conti-Ramsden, G., & Dykins, J. (1991). Mother–child interactions with language-impaired children and their siblings. British Journal of Disorders of Communication, 26, 337–354. Conti-Ramsden, G., Hutcheson, G. D., & Grove, J. (1995). Contingency and breakdown: Specific Language Impaired children’s conversations with their mothers and fathers. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 38, 1290-1313. Conti-Ramsden, G., & Jones, M. (1997). Verb use in specific language impairment. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 40, 1298-1313. Goldberg, A. (2006) Constructions at work. The nature of generalization in language. Oxford: Oxford U. Press. Goldberg, A. & Casenhiser, D. (2006) Learning argument structure constructions. In E. Clark and B. Kelly (eds.) Constructions in Acquisition. Stanford, CSLI. Lieven, L. (2006) Producing multiword utterances. In E. Clark and B. Kelly (eds.) Constructions in Acquisition. Stanford, CSLI. MacWhinney, B. (2000) The Childes project. 3rd edition. NJ: Erlbaum. Peters, A. (in press) Connecting the dots to unpack the language. In R.Corrigan, E. Moravcsik, H. Ouali, and K. Wheatley (eds). Formulaic language, vol. 2, Acquisition, loss, psychological reality, and functional explanations. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Riches, N., Faragher, B., & Conti-Ramsden, G. (2006). Verb schema use and input dependence in 5-year-old children with specific language impairment (SLI). International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 41(2), 117-135. Tomasello, M. (2003) Constructing a language. A usage based theory of language acquisition. Cambridge: Harvard U. Press. Acknowledgements Thanks to Suraiya Khandakar for her assistance coding the data and to John Surber for his encouragement on all phases of the study.