Initial acquisition of mental graphemic representations inchildren with language impairment

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Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research




American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

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The authors examined initial acquisition of mental graphemic representations (MGRs) for a set of pseudowords in children with language impairment (LI). They also determined whether the linguistic properties of the words (i.e., phonotactic and orthotactic probabilities) influenced MGR learning and whether the ability to acquire initial MGRs was related to performance on reading and spelling measures. The authors compared these children’s initial acquisition of MGRs to a group of children with typical language (TL) skills.


A written fast mapping procedure was administered to 25 kindergarten children with LI and 31 with TL. During the procedure, the children were exposed to novel pseudowords varying in phonotactic and orthotactic probabilities in a computer-based, storybook reading task and then were asked to generate and identify those pseudoword spellings. Additionally, reading and spelling tasks were administered.


Children with LI acquired some initial MGRs as evidenced by their ability to identify some pseudowords; however, their ability to identify and generate pseudowords was significantly poorer than that of the comparison group. Similar to their TL peers, the ability to identify pseudoword spellings by children with LI was affected by the linguistic properties of words, and written fast mapping performance was related to spelling performance. However, unlike the comparison group, written fast mapping performance of children with LI was not related to performance on a reading composite measure.


The authors propose that children with LI are less robust at developing initial MGRs than are children with TL and that this poor ability to acquire initial MGRs likely places them at risk for later literacy deficits.

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