Content andForm Interactions in the Narratives of Children with Specific Language Impairment

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Journal of Speech-Language-Hearing Research

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This project investigated the relationship of content and form in the narratives of school-age children.


Two samples of children with specific language impairment (SLI) and their age-matched peers (British Columbia sample, M age 9;0, n = 26; Texas/Kansas sample, M age 7;6, n = 40) completed the Test of Narrative Language (TNL, Gillam & Pearson, 2004). The relative strength of content elaboration and grammatical accuracy was measured for each child using variables derived from the TNL scoring system (Study 1) and from analysis of the story texts (Study 2).


Both studies indicated that, compared to age peers, the children with SLI were more likely to produce stories of uneven strength, either stories with poor content that were grammatically quite accurate, or stories with elaborated content that were less grammatical.


These findings suggest that school-age children with SLI may struggle with the cumulative load of creating a story that is both elaborate and grammatical. They also show that the absence of errors is not necessarily a sign of strength. Finally, they underscore the value of comparing individual differences in multiple linguistic domains, including the elaboration of content, grammatical accuracy, and syntactic complexity.


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