Linguistics Specific Language Impairment
by
Cornelia Hamann
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 March 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199772810-0110

Introduction

Children with specific language impairment (SLI) have a developmental disorder characterized by below average performance in language tasks in the absence of cognitive or sensory impairments. The disorder is also known as “developmental dysphasia” or “primary language impairment” (PLI). SLI has been of great interest to clinicians, speech therapists, psycholinguists and, since the 1970s, also to linguists. The two main approaches to SLI are embedded in the generative/nativist versus the constructivist/connectionist approaches to language acquisition (see the separate Oxford Bibliographies article on “Acquisition of Language”). They respectively propose that the disorder is truly language specific in that the computational system itself is impaired or, alternatively, that the impairment is due to limitations in the mechanisms implicated in language processing. The former approach aims at providing evidence for a specific mechanism for language development, the latter at providing evidence for a general learning mechanism also implicated in language learning.

Introductory Works

There is probably only one “introductory” monograph dedicated to the study of SLI and that is Bishop 1997. The most comprehensive overview to date (not on textbook level, however) is Leonard 1998, which presents up-to-date (to publication) summaries and evaluations of research approaches and results from different languages. Brief overviews can be found in handbooks of language disorders or in comprehensive introductions to language acquisition, such as Guasti 2002.

  • Bishop, Dorothy V. M. 1997. Uncommon understanding. Hove, UK: Psychology Press.

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    Starts from the assumption that SLI needs to be manifest in expressive and receptive language. Stresses semantic-pragmatic problems not directly linked to morpho-syntax.

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    • Guasti, Maria Teresa. 2002. Dissociation between language and other cognitive abilities. In Language acquisition: The growth of grammar. By Maria Teresa Guasti, 375–397. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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      Gives a brief, clear overview about the phenomena, the problems, and the different suggestions for the causes of SLI.

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      • Leonard, Laurence. 1998. Children with specific language impairment. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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        Covers the definition, the criteria, the subgroups, the accounts, and the assumptions about the causes of SLI, the manifestations of language problems in different languages, and the data on possibly accompanying motor or cognitive deficits—up to publication date.

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        Handbooks

        To date, no handbook is dedicated solely to SLI. Handbooks on developmental language disorders often contain several articles on different aspects of SLI or PLI. Handbooks on child language often dedicate a section to atypical development, and handbooks or encyclopedias on communication disorders contain sections on developmental disorders, including SLI. Two early handbooks are Fletcher and MacWhinney 1996 and Bathia and Ritchie 1999, each of which provides excellent background on approaches and issues in language acquisition, including sections on language disorders. Kent 2004 provides an encyclopedic overview of communication disorders of children and adults. Ball, et al. 2008 also covers a range of pathologies, methods, and cross-linguistic aspects whereas Schwartz 2008 focuses on a typology of developmental language disorders in giving first place to SLI. Guendouzi, et al. 2010 complements this work in giving different perspectives (processing, representational) on the disorder. The most recent handbook on communication disorders, Damico, et al. 2012, allows comparisons of up-to-date results and approaches on autism, language delay, pragmatic impairment, and SLI.

        • Ball, Martin J., Michael R. Perkin, Nicole Müller, and Sara Howard, eds. 2008. Handbook of clinical linguistics. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

          DOI: 10.1002/9781444301007Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          There are several chapters on SLI in this book by authors such as Clahsen, Marinis, Penke, de Jong, Crago, Paradis, Friedrici, Chiat, and others.

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          • Bathia, Tej K., and William Ritchie. 1999. Handbook of child language acquisition. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

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            Chapter 19 (pp. 675–701, Clahsen) of this handbook is dedicated to SLI and gives a concise definition and discussion of observations.

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            • Damico, Jack S., Nicole Müller, and Martin J. Ball, eds. 2012. The handbook of language and speech disorders. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

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              Chapter 9 (pp. 210–226, Gillam and Kamhi) is dedicated to SLI, focusing on clinical issues and the role of therapists.

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              • Fletcher, Paul, and Brian MacWhinney, eds. 1996. The handbook of child language. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

                DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631203124.1996.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                The handbook has a section on “non-normal language development” with authors such as Fletcher, Leonard, and Ingham.

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                • Guendouzi, Jackie, Filip Loncke, and Mandy Williams, eds. 2010. Handbook of psycholinguistics and cognitive processes: Perspectives in communication disorders. New York: Psychology Press.

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                  Articles by Burns, van der Lely, Marshall, Arnom-Lotem, Walters, Storkel, and Restrepo, et al. view SLI from different perspectives, giving a balanced representation of research and different approaches.

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                  • Kent, Raymond, ed. 2004. MIT encyclopedia of communication disorders. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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                    Contains one chapter dedicated to SLI (pp. 402–405, Leonard) that briefly outlines the basic issues.

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                    • Schwartz, Richard G., ed. 2008. Handbook of child language disorders. Hove, UK: Psychology Press.

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                      Presents current research on SLI in several chapters, comparing results with other developmental disorders, and dedicates chapter 2 to SLI (pp. 3–43, Schwartz).

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                      Edited Collections

                      Several excellent collections have appeared in recent years focusing on SLI from different perspectives or comparing SLI with other developmental disorders. Rice 1996, a collection of articles mirroring the search for genetic and environmental influences on language development crucial for the generative enterprise, catches the debates of the time in presenting key chapters by leading researchers from different disciplines together with commentaries. Rice and Warren 2004, a collection of conference papers, pursues the same goal, arriving at a more coherent picture of developmental language impairment by charting the progress made in different disciplines. Also based on a symposium, Bishop and Leonard 2000 aims to provide research articles on language disorders that are accessible to a larger public (parents) and can counterbalance the mounting interest in autism. The collection, giving a broad view of language disorders, can therefore be highly recommended also for introductory reading. A more specific stance is taken in Levy and Schaeffer 2003, which provides comparative material in presenting results on other language disorders or cross-linguistic descriptions. Difficulties in diagnosis and problems with finding a common marker for SLI led as early as the 1990s to the recognition of subgroups, an issue that is documented in Verhoeven and Balkom 2003. As emphasized in Bishop and Leonard 2000, the generative approach allowed for sharp delineations of grammatical properties of SLI and raised important questions about genetic influence (see Rice 1996, Rice and Warren 2004, and Levy and Schaeffer 2003), but that approach had been challenged and complemented by the constructivist view of language development. Fletcher and Miller 2005 is a collection of research on language disorders from this latter perspective. Finally, Norbury, et al. 2008 is a comprehensive overview of developmental language disorders, including studies based on brain imaging and online methods.

                      • Bishop, Dorothy V. M., and Laurence Leonard, eds. 2000. Speech and language impairments in children: Causes, characteristics, intervention and outcome. Hove, UK: Psychology Press.

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                        Contains accessible articles by the top researchers in the field uniting descriptions of the disorder cross linguistically with studies on genetics or other disorders and reflections on intervention and many other topics interesting to linguists, speech therapists, and educators.

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                        • Fletcher, Paul, and Jon F. Miller, eds. 2005. Developmental theory and language disorders. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

                          DOI: 10.1075/tilar.4Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                          Unites research on SLI and other language disorders from the constructivist perspective. Contains data on the phenomena of SLI in Chinese.

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                          • Levy, Yonata, and Jeanette Schaeffer, eds. 2003. Language competence across populations. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

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                            Deals with characteristics of SLI in different languages and in different linguistic domains, addresses methodological concerns and problems of definition as well as comparison to other language disorders.

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                            • Norbury, Courtenay F., J. Bruce Tomblin, and Dorothy V. M. Bishop, eds. 2008. Understanding developmental language disorders: From theory to practice. Hove, UK: Psychology Press.

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                              Contains chapters on assessment and methodology (eye-tracking, MRI), on genetics of language disorders, on prevalence in adolescents, and on intervention. Cutting-edge summaries of research.

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                              • Rice, Mabel L., ed. 1996. Towards a genetics of language. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

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                                Different perspectives on typical and atypical language development. Contains research on the genetic and environmental risk for SLI (Tomblin), on cross-linguistic characteristics (Leonard), on the early formulation of the EOI account (Rice and Wexler), and on SLI in Inuktitut (Crago and Allen).

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                                • Rice, Mabel L., and Steven R. Warren, eds. 2004. Developmental language disorders. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

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                                  Contains papers uniting research on phenotypes across developmental language pathologies, on neural and genetic factors, or on growth models. One chapter is dedicated to comparing SLI and autism (Tager-Flusberg); growth models (Rice) also focus on SLI compared with other syndromes.

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                                  • Verhoeven, Ludo, and Hans van Balkom, eds. 2003. Classification of developmental language disorders. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

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                                    Treats characteristics of SLI as well as diagnostic dilemmas and subgroups, manifestations of SLI in different language domains or languages, deficits in information processing, diagnosis, and intervention.

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                                    Databases

                                    Spontaneous production data on SLI are rare since, apart from the usual anonymity issues, there is also the clinical perspective demanding patient-therapist confidentiality. Some corpora have been made available, however, in the clinical section of CHILDES (McWhinney 2000). These are available online. Another database recently made available is the EpiSLI Database, containing the test results of the population studied in the Iowa laboratory by J. Bruce Tomblin.

                                    • McWhinney, Brian. 2000. The CHILDES project: Tools for analyzing talk. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

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                                      Under the heading “Clinical” the CHILDES database contains corpora of spontaneous and narrative productions of children with SLI from several labs and in several languages: Dutch, English, French, and Spanish. Some corpora have been analyzed with a morphological tagger. Information on the corpora can be found in the “Database manuals—language disorders.” The database is available online.

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                                      • Tomblin, J. Bruce. 2010. The EpiSLI database: A publicly available database on speech and language. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools 41 (January): 108–117.

                                        DOI: 10.1044/0161-1461(2009/08-0057)Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                        Contains data on the epistemological study Tomblin, et al. 1997 (cited under Prevalence), the diagnostic battery, including hearing test; TOLD2 results; and data from a narrative task. Available online.

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                                        Journals

                                        No journal is dedicated solely to specific language impairment. Many journals with an orientation toward clinical linguistics and neurolinguistic research publish articles on developmental language disorders and on SLI. Psycholinguistic journals are another place where research on SLI can be found, especially journals focusing on language development. Some journals with a linguistic orientation publish articles on SLI if the content is relevant for linguistic theory or sheds light on properties of a particular language. Many seminal articles have been published in the Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, and the International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders publishes articles on SLI practically in every recent issue. Language Acquisition had one of the earliest special issues dedicated to SLI (van der Lely 1998), and Lingua published a recent special issue on the topic (Schulz and Friedman 2011). Applied Psycholinguistics published an issue with a keynote article and comments on bilingual SLI in 2010 (see Paradis 2010, cited under Bilingualism). In the same year, the Journal of Communication Disorders likewise published an issue on the problem of assessment and intervention in the case of bilingualism and SLI (Journal of Communication Disorders 2010, cited under Bilingualism).

                                        Early Observations on the Language Disorder and Terminology

                                        Clinical observations on language impairments in children not accompanied by cognitive or hearing impairments go back almost two hundred years. Gall 1835 reports that cases were found of children who were not “idiotic” and understood language, who did not have any problems with their vocal organs, and yet did not speak to the same degree as other children. In 1866, Vaisse coined the term “congenital aphasia for this syndrome in order to differentiate it from acquired aphasia in adults. Uchermann 1891 documents several cases of children whose expressive language was severely impaired in the absence of hearing or cognitive impairment or impairment of the vocal organs. Gutzmann 1894 investigates cases with milder language impairments, proposing they resulted from phonological difficulties. It was Albrecht Liebmann who suggested that there are different subtypes of the disorder (Liebmann 1898) and who described a type corresponding closely to what is now termed SLI, a morpho-syntactic deficit which the author called “agrammatismus infantilis” (Liebmann 1901). This term, alongside that of congenital aphasia, was often used until the 1980s in clinical research, and both terms were slowly replaced by “developmental aphasia,” “developmental dysphasia,” “developmental language impairment,” and finally “specific” or “primary” language impairment. The clinical relevance of the impairment made it an object of research in different countries and languages, which laid the foundation for modern cross-linguistic comparisons as described under Characteristic Phenomena in Different Languages. Linguistic interest has been focused on this syndrome since Aram and Nation 1975 and Menyuk 1964, and the interest has been acute ever since. Generative research on SLI centers, in particular, on the question whether SLI can provide evidence for a dedicated, genetically determined mechanism for language acquisition.

                                        • Aram, Dorothy, and James Nation. 1975. Patterns in language behavior in children with developmental language disorders. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research 18:229–241.

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                                          Presents one of the earliest studies establishing different profiles or subgroups. Used the term “developmental language disorder.” A classic.

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                                          • Gall, Friedrich. 1835. On the functions of the brain and each of its parts, with observations on the possibility of determining the instincts, propensities, and talents, or the moral and intellectual dispositions of men and animals, by the configuration of the brain and head. Boston: Marsh, Capen & Lyon.

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                                            Clinical observations about cases of language impairment are highly interesting as they suggest certain comorbidities. They are buried in irrelevant arguments about head shapes and what they suggest about areas of the brain and the functions they serve.

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                                            • Gutzmann, Herrmann. 1894. Des Kindes Sprache und Sprachfehler. Leipzig: Weber.

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                                              (English title: Language and Language Errors of the Child). Describes cases of children who are not “mute”; concentrates on phonological difficulties.

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                                              • Liebmann, Albrecht. 1898. Vorlesungen über Sprachstörungen. Vol. 3, Hörstummheit. Berlin: Coblentz.

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                                                (English title: Lectures about Language Disorders. Vol. 3, Auditory Mutism). The subtypes, Liebmann describes in his lectures refer only to children with very severe deficits. He makes a distinction between children who can comprehend single words and those who cannot comprehend language at all.

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                                                • Liebmann, Albrecht. 1901. Agrammatismus infantilis. Archiv für Psychatrie und Nervenkrankheiten 34:240–252.

                                                  DOI: 10.1007/BF01960298Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                  This is the first study that describes morpho-syntactic problems as the center of the syndrome.

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                                                  • Menyuk, Paula. 1964. Comparison of grammar of children with functionally deviant and normal speech. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research 7:109–121.

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                                                    Describes morpho-syntax in children with SLI from a linguistic perspective, points to the possibility that the deficit is language specific, and thus makes an argument for the modularity of the mind.

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                                                    • Uchermann, Vilhelm Christian. 1891. Drei Fälle von Stummheit (Aphasie) ohne Taubheit, Lähmung oder Geistesschwäche: Sowie ein durch Schreck verursachter Fall von Taubstummheit, ein Fall von verschwindender angeborener Taubstummheit und ein Fall von Stummheit durch Zungenparalysis. Wiesbaden, Germany: J. F. Bergmann.

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                                                      (English title: Three cases of mutism (aphasia) without hearing impairment, paralysis or mental impairment: As well as a case of deaf-mutism caused by fright, a case of ameliorating congenital deaf-mutism and a case of mutism through paralysis of the tongue). The title suggests that Uchermann presents cases of language disorders in which auditory and cognitive abilities are typically developed.

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                                                      • Vaisse, Leon. 1866. Des sourds-muets et de certains cas d’aphasie congénitale. Bulletin de la Société d’anthropologie de Paris 1:146–150.

                                                        DOI: 10.3406/bmsap.1866.4208Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                        (English title: Of deaf-mutes and of certain cases of congenital aphasia). Introduces the term “congenital aphasia” and contrasts such cases of children with “deaf-mutes.”

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                                                        Definition

                                                        The definition of SLI as a disorder in the development of language in the absence of a primary disorder such as mental retardation, auditory/perceptual impairment, or obvious neurological dysfunction contains inclusionary and exclusionary criteria. The inclusionary criterion concerns language abilities of affected children, measured as a composite score across several standardized tests (phonology, vocabulary, grammar) and set at -1.25 SD or lower, or as a lag of six months in language age, as described in Stark and Tallal 1981. Exclusionary criteria aim at excluding obvious causes of the language difficulty, such as hearing impairment, frequent recent episodes of otitis media, low non-verbal IQ, neurological dysfunction, impaired oral structure or motor function, and difficulties with social interaction, as discussed in Leonard 1998. Many researchers have pointed out that the use of different test batteries for language and cognitive abilities in clinical or linguistic research may lead to different results, as noted in Bishop 1997, and that the use of a composite score for rather general language abilities will necessarily lead to heterogeneity or subgroups (see Leonard 2003). New tests probing for linguistic abilities are needed, as argued in de Villiers 2003.

                                                        • Bishop, Dorothy V. M. 1997. Uncommon understanding. Hove, UK: Psychology Press.

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                                                          See pp. 21–35. Gives an in-depth presentation and critique of the criteria and the tests used.

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                                                          • de Villiers, Jill. 2003. Defining SLI: A linguistic perspective. In Language competence across populations: Toward a definition of specific language impairment. Edited by Yonata Levy and Jeanette Schaeffer, 425–447. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

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                                                            Suggests investigating small, well-defined subgroups. Warns against morpho-syntactic markers that might not be valid for children speaking a dialect. Discusses African-American English.

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                                                            • Leonard, Laurence. 1998. Children with specific language impairment. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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                                                              See pp. 10–19. Presents a comprehensive illustration and discussion of the definition and its problems.

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                                                              • Leonard, Laurence. 2003. Specific language impairment: Characterizing the deficit. In Language competence across populations: Toward a definition of specific language impairment. Edited by Yonata Levy and Jeannette Schaeffer, 209–232. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

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                                                                Detailed discussion of methodological problems.

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                                                                • Stark, Rachel E., and Paula Tallal. 1981. Selection of children with specific language deficits. Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders 46:114–122.

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                                                                  The classical locus for the listing of inclusionary and exclusionary criteria and for methodological considerations.

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                                                                  Subgroups

                                                                  Traditionally, a distinction was made between difficulties with production and with comprehension. It has turned out, however, that, as a rule, children with SLI have a special weakness in the production and comprehension of morpho-syntax. Areas of morpho-syntactic difficulty have been found to differ from language to language (see Characteristic Phenomena in Different Languages). Even though morpho-syntax seems to be the core area affected by the deficit, children with accompanying phonological problems, with difficulties in vocabulary learning, or with semantic-pragmatic problems have been described. Conti-Ramsden and Botting 1999 gives a definition of six subgroups. Verhoeven and Balkom 2003 (cited under Edited Collections) also addresses this issue. Friedmann and Novogrodsky 2008, using movement as a discriminating factor, aims to establish double dissociations and selective impairments of syntax, phonology, and semantics/pragmatics. A subgroup of children with SLI who do not show accompanying deficits has been identified in van der Lely, et al. 1998, the authors of which call this subtype “Grammatical SLI.” Bishop, et al. 2000 investigates and discusses this subtype critically.

                                                                  • Bishop, Dorothy V. M., P. Bright, C. James, S. J. Bishop, and H. van der Lely. 2000. Grammatical SLI: A distinct subtype of developmental language impairment? Applied Psycholinguistics 21:159–181.

                                                                    DOI: 10.1017/S0142716400002010Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                    Aims to replicate van der Lely’s findings on the existence of a grammar specific deficit. Find co-occurring deficits, however.

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                                                                    • Conti-Ramsden, Gina, and Nicole Botting. 1999. Classification of children with specific language impairment: Longitudinal considerations. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research 42:1195–1204.

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                                                                      Distinguishes the following subtypes: lexical-syntactic deficit, verbal dyspraxia, phonologic programming deficit, phonological-syntactic deficit, semantic-pragmatic deficit, and grammatical SLI.

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                                                                      • Friedmann, Naama, and Rama Novogrodsky. 2008. Subtypes of SLI: SySLI, PhoSLI, LeSLI and PraSLI. In Language acquisition and development. Edited by Anna Gavarró and M. Joao Freitas, 205–217. Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars.

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                                                                        Investigates whether children with a phonological, lexical, or pragmatic impairment master movement operations in syntax.

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                                                                        • van der Lely, Heather, K. J. Rosen, and A. McClellan. 1998. Evidence for a grammar specific deficit in children. Current Biology 8:1253–1258.

                                                                          DOI: 10.1016/S0960-9822(07)00534-9Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                          Shows that in one group of children with SLI and in one adolescent in particular, the grammatical deficit is not accompanied by other deficits.

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                                                                          Phonological Deficits

                                                                          Children diagnosed as specific language impaired often have problems with the production of consonant clusters, as shown in Ferré, et al. 2010 for French, and consequently with complex syllables in languages such as English and Italian, as shown in Bortolini and Leonard 2000 or Orsolino, et al. 2001. Maillart and Parisse 2006 also shows a phonological deficit using a simpler measure of spontaneous production, inspired by repetition tasks. Non-word repetition, which measures phonological abilities along with working memory capacity, has been suggested as a test for SLI in general (Bishop, et al. 1996 or Orsolino, et al. 2001).

                                                                          • Bishop, Dorothy, Tony North, and Chris Donlan. 1996. Nonword repetition as a behavioural marker for inherited language impairment: Evidence from a twin study. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 37:391–403.

                                                                            DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.1996.tb01420.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                            Uses phonological errors in non-word repetition as a general marker for SLI. Note that the genetic studies cited under Genetics and Neurobiology mostly diagnose SLI by performance in non-word repetition.

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                                                                            • Bortolini, Umberta, and Laurence B. Leonard. 2000. Phonology and children with specific language impairment: Status of structural constraints in two languages. International Journal of Communication Disorders 33:131–150.

                                                                              DOI: 10.1016/S0021-9924(99)00028-3Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                              Reports on syllable simplification of CCV to CV.

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                                                                              • Ferré, Sandrine, Laurice Tuller, Anne-Gaelle Piller, and Marie-Anne Barthez. 2010. Strategies of avoidance in (a)typical development of French. In New directions in language acquisition: Romance languages in the generative perspective. Edited by Pedro Guijarres-Fuentes and Laura Dominguez, 333–364. Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars.

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                                                                                Concentrates on reduction of consonant clusters from the perspective of computational complexity.

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                                                                                • Maillart, Christelle, and Christophe Parisse. 2006. Phonological deficits in French speaking children with SLI. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders 41:253–274.

                                                                                  DOI: 10.1080/13682820500221667Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                  Analyzes spontaneous production according to phonetic and phonological measures: percentage of words phonetically correct or percentage of phonemes correct.

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                                                                                  • Orsolino, Margherita, Enzo Sechi, Cristina Maronato, Elisabetta Bonvino, and Alessandra Corcelli. 2001. Nature of phonological delay in children with specific language impairment. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders 36:63–90.

                                                                                    DOI: 10.1080/13682820150217572Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                    The authors identify a selective impairment in representing complex syllable structure in children with SLI.

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                                                                                    Lexical Deficits and Word Finding Problems

                                                                                    Children with SLI acquire their first words late (as discussed in Trauner, et al. 1995), they use less verbs than typical children, prefer high frequency verbs, and have difficulties with specific verb types. These and other features of lexical development are discussed in Leonard and Deevy 2003, which provides an overview. Word finding problems described in Dockrell, et al. 2001, slow naming of pictures, as shown in Lahey and Edwards 1996, slow vocabulary growth and difficulties with syntactic bootstrapping, as pinpointed in van der Lely 1994, have led to the question of whether children with SLI use the same mechanism as typical children to acquire verb meaning or whether a general problem with lexical access or fast mapping, the mechanism used to isolate the phonological shape and assign meaning to it after only very few exposures, is the cause for slow learning. Whereas Oetting, et al. 1995 and Rice, et al. 1994 point to problems with lexical access to verbs and problems with fast mapping, Rothweiler 1999 shows that the fast mapping mechanism seems to be intact in SLI.

                                                                                    • Dockrell, Julie E., David Messer, and Rachel George. 2001. Patterns of naming objects and actions in children with word finding difficulties. Language and Cognitive Processes 16:261–286.

                                                                                      DOI: 10.1080/01690960042000030Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                      Describe a deficit in word finding, i.e., an expressive deficit on words, with only minor problems in grammar.

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                                                                                      • Lahey, Margaret, and Jan Edwards. 1996. Why do children with specific language impairment name pictures more slowly than their peers? Journal of Speech and Hearing Research 39:1081–1098.

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                                                                                        Points out that slower response times occur only in children with SLI whose deficit is not limited to production and thus contributes to the discussion of definition and subtypes.

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                                                                                        • Leonard, Laurence, and Patricia Deevy. 2003. Lexical deficits in specific language impairment. In Classification of developmental language disorders: Theoretical issues and clinical implications. Edited by Ludo Verhoeven and Hans van Balkom, 209–234. Mahwah NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

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                                                                                          Gives a detailed overview of the findings.

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                                                                                          • Oetting, Janna B., Mabel Rice, and Linda Swank. 1995. Quick incidental learning (QUIL) of words by school-age children with and without SLI. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research 38:434–445.

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                                                                                            Finds that fast mapping is impaired in children with SLI and that verbs are more fragile than nouns. Authors do not use learning of non-words but use unknown real words for the experiments.

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                                                                                            • Rice, Mabel, Janna Oetting, Janet Marquis, John Bode, and Soyeong Pae. 1994. Frequency of input effects on word comprehension of children with specific language impairment. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research 37:106–122.

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                                                                                              Shows that children with SLI are better with high frequency verbs and prefer light verbs.

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                                                                                              • Rothweiler, Monika. 1999. Neue Ergebnisse zum fast mapping bei sprachnormalen und sprachentwicklungsgestörten Kindern. In Das Lexikon im Spracherwerb. Edited by Jörg Meibauer and Monika Rothweiler, 252–277. Tübingen, Germany: A. Francke Verlag.

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                                                                                                The author used non-words in her fast mapping experiment. Finds that children with SLI are like their peers with respect to fast mapping (closely after exposure) but not with respect to storage (retested two weeks later). Does not find a difference between nouns and verbs; important in complementing results in Rice, et al. 1994.

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                                                                                                • Trauner, Doris, Beverly Wulfeck, Paula Tallal, and John Hesselink. 1995. Neurological and MRI profiles of language impaired children. Technical Report CDN-9513. San Diego: Center for Research in Language, Univ. of California.

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                                                                                                  Studied age of first words of a large group of children with SLI through parental report. Finds on average a lag of twelve months with respect to typical children.

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                                                                                                  • van der Lely, Heather. 1994. Canonical linking rules: Forward vs. reverse linking in normally and specifically language impaired children. Cognition 51:29–72.

                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1016/0010-0277(94)90008-6Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                    Shows that children with SLI cannot make use of verb frame for a conjecture about meaning of a verb if there is no accompanying scene or picture.

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                                                                                                    Morpho-Syntactic Deficits

                                                                                                    Weaknesses in areas such as verbal inflection, articles, clitic pronouns, long passives, and question formation have been singled out in descriptions of the morpho-syntactic deficits of children with SLI. Comprehensive cross-linguistic overviews are provided in Leonard 1998 and Leonard 2008 or in Crago, et al. 2008. See also the section Characteristic Phenomena in Different Languages, which demonstrates that, depending on the grammatical properties of different languages, different structures and areas of syntax may be vulnerable in SLI. Recently, complex constructions, such as wh-questions or relative clauses, have been investigated more extensively, as in Novogrodsky and Friedmann 2006.

                                                                                                    • Crago, Martha, Johanne Paradis, and Lise Menn. 2008. Cross-linguistic perspectives on the syntax and semantics of language disorders. In Handbook of clinical linguistics. Edited by Martin J. Ball, Michael R. Perkin, Nicole Müller, and Sara Howard, 275–289. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1002/9781444301007Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                      Groups results on Germanic, Romance, and non-European languages; provides a concise overview, giving relevant references; draws a comparison to difficulties with aphasia.

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                                                                                                      • Leonard, Laurence. 1998. Children with specific language impairment. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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                                                                                                        Whereas chapter 3 is focused on English, chapter 4 gives results of research in other languages (pp. 89–118). Reports on comparative work, often initiated by Leonard and colleagues.

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                                                                                                        • Leonard, Laurence. 2008. Cross-linguistic studies of child language disorders. In Handbook of child language disorders. Edited by Richard Schwartz, 308–324. Hove, UK: Psychology Press.

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                                                                                                          Up-to date overview, comparative perspective; groups by language family and typology; compares different approaches.

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                                                                                                          • Novogrodsky, Rama, and Naama Friedmann. 2006. The production of relative clauses in SLI: A window to the nature of the impairment. Advances in Speech-Language Pathology 84:364–375.

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                                                                                                            Compares the production of subject and object relative clauses, the latter being more complex and also more difficult for children with SLI.

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                                                                                                            Semantic-Pragmatic Deficits

                                                                                                            That children with SLI often have problems integrating discourse or situational information was shown in experiments testing the comprehension of narratives. Ellis Weismer 1985 finds that children with SLI had problems answering questions calling for inferences from the story they had heard. Bishop and Adams 1992 shows that children had difficulties with story comprehension with overtly presented material as well as with inferences even when potential difficulties with the comprehension of complex syntactic structures were factored out. Bishop 2000 takes up the subject and discusses the overlap of this subgroup with autistic children. Schaeffer 2003 investigates syntactic problems caused by pragmatic deficits, such as the absence of the concept of non-shared knowledge. Problems with telicity are highlighted in Ingham, et al. 1998. Semantic deficits, such as variable interpretation and exhaustivity in answers to questions, have been identified in Schulz and Roeper 2011.

                                                                                                            • Bishop, Dorothy V. M. 2000. Pragmatic language impairment: A correlate of SLI, a distinct subgroup or part of the autistic continuum. In Speech and language impairments in children: Causes, characteristics, intervention and outcome. Edited by D. V. M. Bishop and L. Leonard, 99–113. Hove, UK: Psychology Press.

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                                                                                                              Argues against eliminating the subgroup with pragmatic-semantic deficits even if there is overlap in populations.

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                                                                                                              • Bishop, Dorothy V. M., and C. Adams. 1992. Comprehension problems in children with specific language impairment: Literal and inferential meaning. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research 35:119–129.

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                                                                                                                Carefully constructed experimental material. Surprising results as to the fact that the presence of pictures does not aid children with SLI in retelling the story or answering questions.

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                                                                                                                • Ellis Weismer, Susan. 1985. Constructive comprehension abilities exhibited by language-disordered children. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research 28:175–184.

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                                                                                                                  Classic article on comprehension of narratives in children with language impairment.

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                                                                                                                  • Ingham, Richard, Paul Fletcher, Christine Schelletter, and Indra Sinka. 1998. Resultative VPs and specific language impairment. Language Acquisition 7:87–111.

                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1207/s15327817la0702-4_2Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                    Highlights difficulties with resultative interpretations of telic verbs, argues that children with SLI have linguistic problems not only in morpho-syntax.

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                                                                                                                    • Schaeffer, Jeannette. 2003. Pragmatics and SLI. In Language competence across populations. Edited by Yonata Levy and Jeannette Schaeffer, 135–150. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

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                                                                                                                      Concentrates on the concept of referentiality/specificity as defined via speaker/hearer knowledge and the impact of this concept on the acquisition and use of syntactic constructions such as scrambling.

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                                                                                                                      • Schulz, Petra, and Thomas Roeper. 2011. Acquisition of exhaustivity in wh-questions: A semantic dimension of SLI? Lingua 121:383–407.

                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1016/j.lingua.2010.10.005Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                        Gives the discussion a turn to formal computational semantics. Basically, the notion of variable makes questions difficult to understand and the notion of exhaustivity makes them difficult to answer. TD children reach mastery between the ages of five and seven across fifteen languages investigated. German SLI children acquire exhaustivity significantly later, showing different types of errors than TD children.

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                                                                                                                        Prevalence

                                                                                                                        Apart from statistics done on the basis of clinical data, which arrive at an estimate of 3–5 percent affected children (American Psychiatric Association 1994), only one large-scale study has determined the prevalence of SLI in kindergarten children using linguistic and cognitive measures. This is the study of Tomblin, et al. 1997, which found that 7.4 percent of five-year-olds are affected by SLI.

                                                                                                                        • American Psychiatric Association. 1994. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders IV. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

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                                                                                                                          Gives definitions, subgroups, and prevalence estimates based on clinical cases.

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                                                                                                                          • Tomblin, J. Bruce, N. L. Records, Paula Buckwalter, Xuyang Zhang, E. Smith, and Marlea O’Brien. 1997. Prevalence of specific language impairment in kindergarten children. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 40:1245–1260.

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                                                                                                                            A classic and a must-read volume. Discusses criteria and testing procedures and arrives at a prevalence estimate that has not been contradicted since then.

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                                                                                                                            Persistence

                                                                                                                            The age of diagnosis is usually when children are in kindergarten (five years), though in some countries children are diagnosed earlier to allow for early intervention; thus, identification of early predictors is crucial, as Höhle, et al. 2006 points out. Some researchers require the syndrome to be persistent in their subgroup and test older children and adolescents. Early studies on adolescents often include participants on the criterion of an earlier diagnosis of SLI, as in Aram and Nation 1980. Truly longitudinal studies, such as undertaken in Tallal, et al. 1988, have recently gained in interest. Conti-Ramsden, et al. 2012; Tomblin, et al. 2003; and Tomblin 2008 present follow-up research on the cohorts identified in earlier research. These studies show that though there may be growth in language skills, certain language deficits remain into adolescence. Rice 2004 is a study of growth that uses longitudinal data, whereas other researchers present cross-sectional comparisons of children and adolescents, as in Tuller, et al. 2012, which shows persistence of grammatical difficulties into adolescence and adulthood.

                                                                                                                            • Aram, Dorothy, and James Nation. 1980. Preschool language disorders and subsequent language and academic difficulties. Journal of Communication Disorders 13:159–170.

                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1016/0021-9924(80)90033-7Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                              Found that 40 percent of children diagnosed with SLI in kindergarten still showed language problems four years later. Another 40 percent of the children showed learning problems.

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                                                                                                                              • Conti-Ramsden, Gina, Michelle St. Clair, Andrew Pickles, and Kevin Durkin. 2012. Developmental trajectories of verbal and nonverbal skills in individuals with a history of SLI: From childhood to adolescence. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research 55:1716–1735.

                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1044/1092-4388(2012/10-0182Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                The study follows adolescents at regular intervals until age seventeen. Results show steady language growth in all participants but varying patterns for nonverbal skills.

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                                                                                                                                • Höhle, Barbara, Ruben van de Vijver, and Jürgen Weissenborn. 2006. Word processing at 19 months and its relation to language performance at 30 months: A retrospective analysis of data from German learning children. International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology 8:356–363.

                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1080/14417040600970614Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                  Reports on children from the German Language Development (GLAD) project who were followed from birth in behavioral and neurological studies. The aim of the project was to find early predictors of later language difficulties.

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                                                                                                                                  • Rice, Mabel. 2004. Language growth of children with SLI and unaffected children: Timing mechanisms and linguistic distinctions. In Proceedings of the 28th annual Boston University conference on language development, Boston, MA, 31 October–2 November 2003. Edited by A. Brugos, L. Micciulla, and C. Smith, 28–49. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla.

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                                                                                                                                    Describes the persistence of difficulties with tense markings well into adolescence. Briefly also reports on adolescents later described in more detail in Rice, et al. 2009 (cited under Deficits in Grammatical Representations).

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                                                                                                                                    • Tallal, Paula, Susan Curtiss, and R. Kaplan. 1988. The San Diego longitudinal study: Evaluating the outcomes of preschool impairments in language development. In International perspectives on communication disorders. Edited by S. Gerber and G. Mencher, 86–126. Washington, DC: Gallaudet Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                      Studied a large cohort of children with SLI from age 4;4 till 9;4. Found that language problems ameliorated, but were persistent nonetheless. Identified reading comprehension as a likely follow-up problem of children with SLI.

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                                                                                                                                      • Tomblin, J. Bruce. 2008. Validating diagnostic standards for SLI using adolescent outcomes. In Understanding developmental language disorders: From theory to practice. Edited by Courtenay F. Norbury, J. Bruce Tomblin, and Dorothy V. M. Bishop, 93–114. Hove, UK: Psychology Press.

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                                                                                                                                        Reports on persistence of language difficulties into adolescence in the cohort recruited in the 1990s.

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                                                                                                                                        • Tomblin, J. Bruce, Xuyang Zhang, Paula Buckwalter, and Marlea O’Brien. 2003. The stability of primary language disorder: Four years after kindergarten diagnosis. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 46:1283–1296.

                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1044/1092-4388(2003/100)Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                          Provides an overview of previous longitudinal studies, shows that language impairments are likely to persist (using appropriate measures and statistical analysis).

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                                                                                                                                          • Tuller, Laurice, Celia Henry, Eva Sizaret, and Marie-Anne Barthez. 2012. SLI at adolescence: Avoiding complexity. Applied Psycholinguistics 33:161–184.

                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1017/S0142716411000312Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                            Analyzes different complex constructions, their low production rates, and the alternative constructions and strategies used to avoid production at adolescence. Shows persistence of difficulties in certain complex constructions (pronominal clitics, wh-questions, subordination).

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                                                                                                                                            Genetics and Neurobiology

                                                                                                                                            After a period of clinical and psychological studies in which the cause of SLI was sought in prenatal or perinatal factors or in the input to the child (see Leonard 1998, p. 149), attention shifted to the possibility that SLI is hereditary. This topic was investigated in prevalence studies of boys and girls and, with a more specifically genetic orientation, in familial aggregation and twin studies. Rice 1996 gives an early overview and clarifies the research questions. With the advent of advanced genetic research techniques and the Human Genome project, a clarification of the genetic basis of language impairments—given a sufficiently precise phenotype of the impairment—is within reach.

                                                                                                                                            • Leonard, Laurence. 1998. Children with specific language impairment. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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                                                                                                                                              Chapter 7 (pp.149–162) gives an overview of familial aggregation, twin studies, and other issues of genetic research.

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                                                                                                                                              • Rice, Mabel L., ed. 1996. Towards a genetics of language. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

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                                                                                                                                                The first section (pp. 3–77) of the collection is dedicated to genetics and contains articles by researchers such as Brzustowicz, Smith, Pennington, Lefly, and Gilger. This section also contains a genetic study on dyslexia and considerations about linkage analysis.

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                                                                                                                                                Gender, Families, and Twins

                                                                                                                                                The fact that males have been found to have SLI more often than females (rate 2.8:1) in several studies, as in Tallal, et al. 1989b, made a genetic component of SLI very likely. Family studies also proved familial aggregations between 20 and 40 percent, as shown in Tallal, et al. 1989a; Lahey and Edwards 1995; or van der Lely and Stollwerk 1996, which include reading difficulties as indications of language problems. Pickles, et al. 2012 also finds a high likelihood for such difficulties in family members of participants with SLI or/and autism. Based on direct testing methods instead of a questionnaire probing for known difficulties with language, Plante, et al. 1996 finds an even higher percentage. Concomitantly, the genetic component was investigated in twin studies, which uniformly found nearly 100 percent concordance in monozygotic twins and 50–70 percent concordance in dizygotic twins. Classic examples of such research and exemplary twin studies are Bishop, et al. 1995 and Tomblin and Buckwalter 1998.

                                                                                                                                                • Bishop, Dorothy V. M., Tony North, and Chris Donlan. 1995. Genetic basis of specific language impairment: Evidence from a twin study. Developmental medicine and child neurology 37:56–71.

                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-8749.1995.tb11932.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                  Investigates sixty-one twins, differentiates between children who had resolved their language problems and those who had not. Finds high concordance rates for monozygotic twins, lower concordance rates for dizygotic twins. Also studies familial aggregation and heredity.

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                                                                                                                                                  • Lahey, Margaret, and Jan Edwards. 1995. Specific language impairment: Preliminary investigation of factors associated with family history and with patterns of language performance. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research 38:643–657.

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                                                                                                                                                    Differentiates between children with expressive and with receptive problems, finds higher aggregation percentages in the first case.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Pickles, Andrew, Michelle C. St. Clair, and Gina Conti-Ramsden. 2012. Communication and social deficits in relatives of individuals with SLI and relatives of individuals with ASD. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1007/s10803-012-1556-2Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                      Finds high rates of communication and social disorders in families of SLI (and ASD) participants.

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                                                                                                                                                      • Plante, Elena, Kenneth Shenkman, and Melinda Clark. 1996. Classification of adults for family studies of developmental language disorders. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research 39:661–667.

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                                                                                                                                                        Used a test battery developed to diagnose adults by the Iowa team (Tomblin, et al.). This study found the high rate of 63 percent of affected family members.

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                                                                                                                                                        • Tallal, Paula, R. Ross, and Susan Curtiss. 1989a. Familial aggregation in specific language impairment. Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders 54:167–173.

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                                                                                                                                                          Reports a high percentage of affected family members (43 percent). Included family members who had reading problems or who had doubled a class.

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                                                                                                                                                          • Tallal, Paula, R. Ross, and Susan Curtiss. 1989b. Unexpected sex-ratios in families of language/learning-impaired children. Neuropsychologia 27:987–1073.

                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1016/0028-3932(89)90074-2Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                            Careful study, finding about 3:1 prevalence in boys.

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                                                                                                                                                            • Tomblin, J. Bruce, and Paula Buckwalter. 1998. Heritability of poor language achievement among twins. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 41:188–199.

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                                                                                                                                                              Detailed study, using carefully selected test batteries, provides an overview of previous findings.

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                                                                                                                                                              • van der Lely, Heather, and Linda Stollwerk. 1996. A grammatical specific language impairment in children: An autosomal dominant inheritance? Brain and Language 52:484–504.

                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1006/brln.1996.0026Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                Concentrates on children with grammatical SLI. Finds a high likelihood that one or more family members of an affected child has a language problem.

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                                                                                                                                                                The Human Genome Project

                                                                                                                                                                The first strong results from research on the human genome was reported in Fisher, et al. 1998 and Lai, et al. 2001, which isolated a gene mutation (of FOXP2) in the KE family known to have a severe deficit, including dyspraxia and expressive/receptive language deficits. Broadening research to populations with milder language impairments, meeting the diagnostic criteria of SLI, brought diverse results: Newbury, et al. 2002 establishes that FOXP2 is not the gene “causing” SLI, and this work is complemented by O’Brien, et al. 2003, which finds that areas close to FOXP2 are involved in the expression of SLI. Of special interest here is the research undertaken by the SLI Consortium, the findings of which are published in SLI Consortium 2002 and SLI Consortium 2009, which identified more areas involved in the expression of SLI and in 2009 tied the findings to results on limitations in short-term memory. The International Molecular Genetic Study of Autism Consortium contributed studies of genetic overlaps of SLI and autism.

                                                                                                                                                                • Fisher, S. E., F. Vargha-Khadem, K. E. Watkins, P. Monaco, and M. E. Pembrey. 1998. Localisation of a gene implicated in a severe speech and language disorder. Nature Genetics 18:168–170.

                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1038/ng0298-168Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                  Localizes the gene FOXP2 on chromosome 7; establishes that this gene is a factor in the language difficulties of the KE family.

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                                                                                                                                                                  • Lai, C. S. L., S. E. Fisher, J. A. Hurst, F. Vargha-Khadem, and A. P. Monaco. 2001. A novel forkhead-domain gene is mutated in a severe speech and language disorder. Nature 413:519–523.

                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1038/35097076Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                    Shows disruption of FOXP2 in a patient (CS) with deficits similar to the KE family. Makes more precise the possible genetic regions and causes in both cases (patient CS and KE family.)

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                                                                                                                                                                    • Newbury, F., E. Bonora, J. Lamb, et al. 2002. FOXP2 is not a major susceptibility gene for autism or specific language impairment. American Journal of Human Genetics 70:1318–1327.

                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1086/339931Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                      Gives an overview of previous findings, questions the relevance of FOXP2 in cases of “milder” language impairment such as SLI. Finds no involvement of FOXP2.

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                                                                                                                                                                      • O’Brien, Erin K., Xuyang Zhang, Carla Nishimura, J. Bruce Tomblin, and Jeffrey C. Murray. 2003. Association of specific language impairment (SLI) to the region of 7q31. American Journal of Human Genetics 72:1536–1543.

                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1086/375403Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                        Sums up the discussion up to publication date. Provides evidence that neighboring regions of FOXP2 are involved in SLI and raises the question of whether the genetic or phenotypic overlaps in autism and SLI go back to the same or to different chromosomal loci.

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                                                                                                                                                                        • SLI Consortium. 2002. A genomewide scan identifies two novel loci involved in specific language impairment. American Journal of Human Genetics 70:384–399.

                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1086/338649Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                          This study identified loci not on 7q but on two other genes (16q and 19q) involved in SLI. Complements research by this group published as Newbury, et al. 2002.

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                                                                                                                                                                          • SLI Consortium. 2009. CMIP and ATP2C2 modulate phonological short-term memory in language impairment. American Journal of Human Genetics 85:264–272.

                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2009.07.004Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                            Later work of the group points to the role of short-term memory, which might combine with other genetic risk factors making some individuals prone to language impairments.

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                                                                                                                                                                            Causes or Underlying Deficits

                                                                                                                                                                            The nature and causes of SLI have long been an area of debate. The basic discussion focuses on whether the underlying deficit is language specific or due to more general processing difficulties. In both of these basic approaches, different and more specific impairments have been suggested. Language deficits have been characterized as deficits in grammatical representations concerning different grammatical mechanisms, such as tense marking, agreement, noninterpretable features, or long-distance relationships. Processing deficits can be viewed as general, in that working memory is limited or that information processing as a whole is slow, or as specific, pertaining only to phonological processing, to phonological short term memory, or to procedural, not to declarative, memory. The debate about language/grammar specific versus processing deficits goes back almost forty years and it is only recently that it has been suggested that observed language deficits are due to the interaction of linguistic complexity with processing demands. Recent overviews of the approaches can be found in Marinis 2011; Paradis, et al. 2005–2006; Jakubowicz and Tuller 2008; and Tomblin, et al. 2007. All four give summaries of arguments and counterarguments, though the authors use the rest of their articles to provide evidence for a specific view. Paradis, et al. 2005–2006 takes a clear position for domain-specificity whereas Jakubowicz and Tuller 2008 argues for an interplay of syntactic complexity and working memory. Tomblin, et al. 2007 views the debate from a different perspective, favoring a specific processing deficit. Marinis 2011 reviews the existing evidence quite extensively, pointing to the importance of online measures in such an evaluation.

                                                                                                                                                                            • Jakubowicz, Celia, and Laurice Tuller. 2008. Specific language impairment in French. In Studies in French applied linguistics. Edited by Dalila Ayoun, 97–134. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1075/lllt.21Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                              The authors give a concise overview and argue for the computational complexity hypothesis.

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                                                                                                                                                                              • Marinis, Theodoros. 2011. On the nature of specific language impairment: A view from sentence processing and infant research. Lingua 121:463–475.

                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1016/j.lingua.2010.10.010Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                In-depth evaluation of approaches and results from online studies; argues for a processing deficit or an interaction of linguistic complexity with processing. Discusses the developmental perspective.

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                                                                                                                                                                                • Paradis, Crago, and Fred Genesee. 2005–2006. Domain-general vs. domain-specific accounts of specific language impairment: Evidence from bilingual children’s acquisition of object pronouns. Language Acquisition 131:33–62.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  The authors give a short overview and argue for domain-specificity; they use a specific construction and a specific population.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  • Tomblin, J. Bruce, Elina Mainela-Arnold, and Xuyang Zhang. 2007. Procedural learning in adolescents with and without language impairment. Language Learning and Development 3:269–293.

                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1080/15475440701377477Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                    Before presenting the new study on the performance of adolescents with and without SLI on procedural memory tasks, there is a short, but informative overview of approaches.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    Deficits in Grammatical Representations

                                                                                                                                                                                    Two early accounts of language specific deficits are Gopnik 1990, which coined the term “feature blindness” to account for grammatical and morphological deficits, and Clahsen 1989, which contains observations on the grammatical deficits of German children with SLI that were couched in a GPSG framework and led to the formulation of the “agreement deficit” hypothesis. The latter was later reformulated as a deficit pertaining to only verbal agreement (see also Characteristic Phenomena in Different Languages: German). van der Lely 1998 takes into account not only tense and agreement errors, but also difficulties with long, reversible passives with the interpretation of pronouns and with question formation and postulated a Representational Deficit with Dependent Relationships (RDDR), which was broadened to a deficit in building hierarchical structures in later work (van der Lely and Marshall 2010). Rice and Wexler 1996 locates a difficulty with tense (or agreement) that can be persistent and can surface in complex constructions even in older children, as further discussed in Rice, et al. 2009. The basic proposal of Rice and Wexler 1996; Rice, et al. 2009; and related research is that SLI children go through an “Extended” Optional Infinitive (EOI) phase. Tsimpli 2001, working in the Minimalist Framework, suggests that the problem is located in the non-interpretable features. These concern, specifically, agreement and case; their impairment will lead not only to morphological errors, but also to errors due to lack of movement triggered by the checking mechanism. Some of these accounts explicitly assume that language development in typical children and in children with SLI is parallel but delayed (Clahsen 1989, Rice and Wexler 1996), whereas others assume a deviant development (van der Lely 1998).

                                                                                                                                                                                    • Clahsen, Harald. 1989. The grammatical characterization of developmental dysphasia. Linguistics 27:897–920.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      Aims to capture deficits in verbal agreement, case, gender, and plural through the assumption of a deficit in the control-agreement principle assumed in GPSG. Argues decidedly for a representational deficit; assumes delayed development.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      • Gopnik, Myrna. 1990. Feature blindness. Language Acquisition 1:139–164.

                                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1207/s15327817la0102_1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                        Focuses on the observation of missing tense morphology in the productions of affected members of a large family. Suggests that the grammatical derivations of these patients are blind to grammatical features such as tense.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        • Rice, Mabel, Lesa Hoffman, and Kenneth Wexler. 2009. Judgments of omitted BE and DO in questions as extended finiteness clinical markers of specific language impairment to 15 years: A study of growth and asymptote. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research 52:1417–1433.

                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1044/1092-4388(2009/08-0171)Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                          Demonstrates a persistent problem with tense and agreement marking, which is no longer manifest in simple declarative structures but surfaces in more complex structures, namely in questions. Follow-up of earlier studies, analyzes growth curves: SLI children do not catch up. Thorough review of research; gives newer formulation of the EOI account.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          • Rice, Mabel, and Kenneth Wexler. 1996. Tense over time: The persistence of optional infinitives in English in children with SLI. In Proceedings of the 20th annual Boston University conference on language development, Boston, MA, November 1995. Vol. 2. Edited by Andy Stringfellow, Dalia Cahana-Amitay, Elizabeth Hughes, and Andrea Zukowski, 610–621. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            Introduces the idea that English-language children with SLI undergo a prolonged phase of optional infinitives, which is also found in younger typical children. In early formulations of the theory this means that the grammatical manifestations of tense, the tense projection, can be missing. Shows that there may be “changers,” that is, children who grow out of the problem in their sixth year of life.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            • Tsimpli, Ianthi. 2001. LF-interpretability and language development: A study of verbal and nominal features in normally developing and SLI Greek children. Brain and Language 77:432–448.

                                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1006/brln.2000.2413Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                              Assumes a general problem with uninterpretable features, does not narrow the deficit to verbal agreement.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              • van der Lely, Heather K. J. 1998. SLI in children: Movement, economy and deficits in the computational syntactic system. Language Acquisition 7:161–192.

                                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1207/s15327817la0702-4_4Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                A good place to read up on the RDDR in its original form. Gives evidence for a domain specific, representational syntactic deficit and a clear definition of the RDDR.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                • van der Lely, Heather K. J., and Chloë Marshall. 2010. Grammatical-specific language impairment: A window onto domain specificity. In Handbook of psycholinguistics and cognitive processes: Perspectives in communication disorders. Edited by Jackie Guendouzi, Filip Loncke, and Mandy Williams, 401–418. New York: Psychology Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  Argues that a deficit in building hierarchical relationships can explain not only the difficulties observed in SLI children’s syntax, but also difficulties in the phonological, morphological, and lexical domains.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  Domain General Deficits

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Many accounts propose that the specific linguistic problems of children with SLI are secondary to general cognitive processing limitations (see Montgomery, et al. 2010 for a recent overview of domain general and domain specific processing impairments in children with SLI). In particular, the domain-general central executive is assumed to be limited so that storage, attention, updating, and inhibition are impaired. Speed of processing—closely linked to WM limitations because slow processing may lead to decay of stored items—has been found to be slow in children with SLI in all mental processes in Leonard, et al. 2007, and Archibald and Gathercole 2007, derives limitations in WM capacity from slow processing in combination with verbal-specific storage deficits. Under this approach, comprehension problems with narratives and with particularly complex syntactic constructions, such as relative clauses, are explained as deriving from working memory limitations and slow processing, as proposed by Bishop 2006. The approach is supported by brain imaging studies, such as Ellis Weismer, et al. 2005.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Archibald, Lisa, and Susan Gathercole. 2007. Short term and working memory in SLI. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders 41:675–693.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1080/13682820500442602Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Compared children in tasks of short-term memory, working memory, and processing speed in verbal and visuospatial modality. The results showed impairments in processing speed and in verbal working memory tasks, not in short-term memory tasks.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Bishop, Dorothy M. V. 2006. What causes specific language impairment in children? Current Directions in Psychological Science 15:217–221.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8721.2006.00439.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Gives an overview of processing accounts, supports working memory and slow processing as underlying deficit.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Ellis Weismer, Susan, Elena Plante, Maura Jones, and J. Bruce Tomblin. 2005. A functional magnetic resonance imaging investigation of verbal working memory in adolescents with specific language impairment. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research 48:405–425.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1044/1092-4388(2005/028)Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Investigates whether adolescents with SLI show less activation than controls in a verbal working memory task and whether they activate less efficient networks than controls, including areas less specialized for language.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Leonard, Laurence, Susan Ellis Weismer, Carol Miller, David J. Francis, J. Bruce Tomblin, and Robert V. Kail. 2007. Speed of processing, working memory and language impairment in children. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research 50:408–428.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1044/1092-4388(2007/029)Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Compares different tasks measuring processing speed and measuring working memory. Include motor tasks, nonlinguistic cognitive tasks such as visual search and linguistic tasks in the processing speed measures. Shows that speed of processing and working memory, though related, can be differentiated. Considers the possibility that language abilities and processing skills are not necessarily related in the production of optional infinitives.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Montgomery, James W., Beula M. Magimairaj, and Mianisha C. Finney. 2010. Working memory and specific language impairment: An update on the relation and perspectives on assessment and treatment. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology 19:78–94.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1044/1058-0360(2009/09-0028)Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Gives an introduction into the working memory system, provides a thorough overview of previous research, argues for interaction of speed of processing and working memory.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            Specific Processing Deficits

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Instead of a general processing bottleneck, Tallal and colleagues propose that auditory processing of short and rapid sound sequences is problematic for children (see Tallal and Stark 1981). Leonard, et al. 1992 suggests that problems with the perception of unstressed syllables make functional morphology extremely vulnerable, ultimately leading to problems with rule formation, a hypothesis known as the “surface hypothesis.” Gathercole and Baddeley 1990 proposes that the underlying cause of SLI is short-term memory and, more specifically, phonological working memory, supported by high correlations of poor performance in non-word repetition tasks and linguistic deficits (also reported in Bishop, et al. 1996, cited under Phonological Deficits). Chiat 2001 outlines how a phonological processing deficit leads to problems with segmenting the speech stream, with fast mapping, with lexical storage, and with identification of syntactic combinations of lexical items, highlighting the developmental impact of such a deficit. Starting from the observation that many children with SLI also have impaired motor skills, as shown in Bishop 2002, Ullmann and Pierpoint 2005 proposes that the underlying cause of SLI is a deficit in procedural memory, affecting execution of fast, sequential tasks such as grammatical rule application in phonology, morphology, syntax, and computational semantics. Tomblin, et al. 2007 supports this hypothesis with experiments on serial learning, showing that declarative memory is not correlated to performance on these tasks in adolescents with SLI. Lum, et al. 2012 provides experimental evidence that neither working nor declarative memory, but rather procedural memory, is the locus of the deficit underlying SLI.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Bishop, Dorothy. 2002. Motor immaturity and specific language impairment: Evidence for a common genetic basis. Journal of Medical Genetics 114:56–63.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1002/ajmg.1630Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Argues that more than language is affected in children with SLI; discusses genetic evidence.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Chiat, Shula. 2001. Mapping theories of developmental language impairment: Premises, predictions and evidence. Language and Cognitive Processes 16:113–142.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1080/01690960042000012Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Sees a phonological impairment as the basic deficit in SLI and derives impairments in other areas from this deficit. Clearly written with well presented evidence.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Gathercole, Susan, and Alan Baddeley. 1990. Phonological memory deficits in language disordered children: Is there a causal connection? Journal of Memory and Language 29:336–360.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1016/0749-596X(90)90004-JSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Introduces the idea that phonological short-term memory is the underlying deficit.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Leonard, Laurence, Karla McGregor, and G. Allen. 1992. Grammatical morphology and speech perception in children with specific language impairment. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research 35:1076–1085.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Suggests an early deficit that has developmental consequences in that it influences grammatical morphology and syntax at later stages. Introduces the “surface hypothesis.”

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Lum, Jarrad, Gina Conti-Ramsden, Debra Page, and Michael Ullmann. 2012. Working, declarative and procedural memory in specific language impairment. Cortex 48:1138–1154.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1016/j.cortex.2011.06.001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Results for declarative memory correlated with lexical abilities in SLI and control group, whereas performance on grammatical tasks correlated with procedural memory tasks only in control group. In the SLI children: correlation with declarative memory, evidence for compensatory role of this memory system when procedural memory is impaired.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Tallal, Paula, and Rachel E. Stark. 1981. Speech acoustic-cue discrimination abilities of normally developing and language-impaired children. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 69:568–574.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1121/1.385431Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The finding presented in this paper, namely that short CV sequences are hardest to distinguish for children with SLI when they follow each other at short intervals, has subsequently been used for the development of training material. A clear correlation to problems with syntax could not be replicated in later studies, however.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Tomblin, J. Bruce, Elina Mainela-Arnold, and Xuyang Zhang. 2007. Procedural learning in adolescents with and without specific language impairment. Language Learning and Development 3:269–293.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1080/15475440701377477Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Contrasts a group of adolescents with SLI defined by vocabulary deficits with a group defined by grammar impairments. Only the latter group showed slower learning rates of serial patterns than the controls.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Ullmann, Michael T., and Elizabeth I. Pierpoint. 2005. Specific language impairment is not specific to language: The procedural deficit hypothesis. Cortex 41:399–433.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1016/S0010-9452(08)70276-4Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Demonstrates how a deficit in procedural memory can explain known facts about SLI. Gives a thorough overview about genetic, neurological, and behavioral research on SLI and other disorders. Bases conclusions only on previous findings.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Computational Complexity and the Performance System

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The Computational Complexity Hypothesis was already suggested in Jakubowicz, et al. 1998. Jakubowicz 2007 and Jakubowicz 2011 formulate precisely (and perhaps too narrowly) what it is specifically that makes a syntactic derivation complex. Like van der Lely 1998 (see Deficits in Grammatical Representations), the author pinpoints the difficulty in the movement operation and thus, like Tsimpli 2001 (see Deficits in Grammatical Representations) in the obligatory checking of non-interpretable features. Differing from the latter authors, Jakubowicz identifies the locus of the problem for children with SLI not in the morpho-syntactic representation or derivation itself but in its interaction with developmental constraints, such as a limited working memory, that is assumed to be “sensitive to the computational complexity of the derivation” (Jakubowicz 2011, p. 340). Apart from the discussion of the complexity of object clitics in French presented in Jakubowicz, et al. 1998 and Tuller, et al. 2011, the approach shifted investigation to phenomena such as Wh-questions, relative clauses, and subordination in general (Jakubowicz 2011 and see also Jakubowicz and Tuller 2008 in Characteristic Phenomena in Different Languages: French). It allowed the authors of Tuller, et al. 2012 to concentrate not only on the errors, but also on the avoidance strategies and on factors, apart from movement, that contribute to derivational complexity.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Jakubowicz, Celia. 2007. Grammaire universelle et trouble spécifique du langage. In Chomsky. Edited by Jean Bricmont and Julie Franck, 164–175. Paris: Les Éditions de l’Herne.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              (English title: Universal grammar and Specific Language Impairment). Maps out the idea of the CCH and the complexity metric and the impact of derivational complexity at the interfaces; presents evidence from long-distance wh-questions.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Jakubowicz, Celia. 2011. Measuring derivational complexity: New evidence from typically developing and SLI learners of L1 French. Lingua 121:339–351.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1016/j.lingua.2010.10.006Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Formulates the CCH, the complexity metric, and the sensitivity of working memory to computational complexity and presents evidence from studies of elicited wh-questions and long-distance questions. Analyzes error patterns and explains alternative strategies with the help of the metric.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Jakubowicz, Celia, Lea Nash, Catherine Rigaut, and Christophe-Loic Gérard. 1998. Determiners and clitic pronouns in French-speaking children with SLI. Language Acquisition 7:113–160.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1207/s15327817la0702-4_3Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Compares production and comprehension of determiners and clitics, which are alike in form in French: only the production of accusative clitics is impaired in SLI, whereas comprehension is not. Argues against a difficulty with phonologically weak elements. The finding IL > SE > LE gives rise to the first formulation of the CCH, though analysis of clitics is not without controversy.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Tuller, Laurice, Helène Delage, Cecile Monjauze, Anne-Gaelle Piller, and Marie-Anne Barthez. 2011. Clitic pronoun production as a measure of atypical language development in French. Lingua 121:423–441.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1016/j.lingua.2010.10.008Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Investigates children and adolescents with different developmental language disorders (mild to moderate hearing loss, SLI, and Rolandic epilepsy), shows that third-person object clitics remain weak in adolescence across these syndromes; concludes that the difficulty is due to problems in extra-linguistic systems interacting with the complexity of linguistic derivations.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Tuller, Laurice, Celia Henry, Eva Sizaret, and Marie-Anne Barthez. 2012. SLI at adolescence: Avoiding complexity. Applied Psycholinguistics 33:161–184.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1017/S0142716411000312Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Analyzes constructions that are complex in the sense of Jakubowicz 2011 and in a broader sense. Argues that persistent problems exist, are manifest in avoidance and are caused by an interaction of working memory limitations and the complexity of the construction.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Characteristic Phenomena in Different Languages

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Research on morpho-syntactic and other difficulties in children with SLI speaking different languages has revealed that affected areas of morpho-syntax may differ. This is relevant for the identification of clinical markers, for theories about the causes of SLI, and for grammatical analyses of these languages. See Leonard 2008 for a recent overview. These sections will give a brief survey of research in selected languages in more or less detail, giving most space to European languages because these languages have a research tradition. For many languages, no profile of SLI is as yet available, and for others research is just beginning.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Leonard, Laurence. 2008. Cross-linguistic studies of child language disorders. In Handbook of child language disorders. Edited by Richard Schwartz, 308–324. Hove, UK: Psychology Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Up-to date overview, comparative perspective; groups by language family and typology; compares different approaches.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Dutch

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Research on Dutch has revealed similarities to German, in that verbal morphology is particularly affected, and to English, in that infinitives are used frequently, as Wexler, et al. 2004 shows. Dutch differs from German in that not many verb-placement errors have been described, as research in de Jong 2003 shows.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • de Jong, Jan. 2003. Specific language impairment and linguistic explanation. In Language competence across populations. Edited by Yonata Levy and Jeanette Schaeffer, 151–170. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Easy-to-read article presenting data on Dutch verbal inflection in children with SLI.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Wexler, Ken, Jeannette Schaeffer, and Gerard Bol. 2004. Verbal syntax and morphology in Dutch normal and SLI children: How developmental data can play an important role in morphological theory. Syntax 7.2: 148–198.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9612.2004.00006.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Data, theories on SLI, and models of morphology are explored.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            English

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Research on English SLI has a long tradition and covers almost every aspect of the disorder (see Leonard 1998, cited under Introductory Works, in which chapter 3 [pp. 43–88] gives a thorough overview of results on English up to the date of publication). Bishop 1997 (cited under Introductory Works) also concentrates on results from English. Many works have already been mentioned in other contexts in this article so that only a very small selection is presented here. Investigations such as Wexler, et al. 1998 are driven by theoretical considerations and are a good source for the development of the EOI hypothesis. Other works are relevant because the authors employ new methodologies, such as Marinis and van der Lely 2007, or are investigating complex syntactic constructions such as subordination, as in Owen and Leonard 2006, or wh-questions, as in van der Lely, et al. 2011.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Marinis, Theo, and Heather van der Lely. 2007. On-line processing of wh-questions in children with G-SLI and typically developing children. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders 42:557–582.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1080/13682820601058190Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Investigates antecedent-gap relations, finds that children with SLI did not show reactivation at the gap. Argues for a version of the RDDR.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Owen, Amanda, and Laurence Leonard. 2006. The production of finite and non-finite complement clauses by children with specific language impairment and their typically developing peers. Journal of Speech. Language and Hearing Research 49:548–571.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1044/10902-4388(2006/040)Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Moving investigation from grammatical morphology to embedded clauses. Results on English in this area fit in with results on languages such as French.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • van der Lely, Heather K., Melanie Jones, and Chloë R. Marshall. 2011. Who did Buzz see someone? Grammaticality judgement of wh-questions in typically developing children and children with grammatical-SLI. Lingua 121:408–422.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1016/j.lingua.2010.10.007Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Uses grammaticality judgments for testing mastery of question formation; finds that even older children and adolescents with SLI accept sentences spelling out the gap position.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Wexler, Kenneth, Carson Schütze, and Mabel Rice. 1998. Subject case in children with SLI and unaffected controls: Evidence for the Agr/Tns omission model. Language Acquisition 7:317–344.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1207/s15327817la0702-4_8Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Broadens the EOI to the ATOM (which later became the UCC, Unique Checking Constraint) account; shows contingencies of case marking and finiteness in children with SLI (as in younger typical children). Note that this contingency is hard to explain in constructivist or pure processing accounts.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    French

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Research on the manifestations of SLI in French has crystallized the proposal that SLI effects morpho-syntax depending on the grammatical properties of the language. Thus clinical markers vary across languages, and SLI in French is not so much characterized by the use of infinitives and omission of articles as by the omission of auxiliaries and, most notably, by the omission of clitic object pronouns. Chevrie-Muller 1996 is one of the first articles focusing on SLI in French and investigating vulnerability of functional categories. Le Normand, et al. 1998 follows the tradition of collecting spontaneous data and finds omission of auxiliaries and other functional categories. Paradis and Crago 2001 and Hamann, et al. 2003 look at evidence for an EOI stage in French, both complement each other’s findings with respect to the use of infinitives. Corroborating other research on French, Paradis, et al. 2003 is a programmatic article singling out the omission of accusative clitics as a marker for SLI in French, whereas Maillart and Schelstraete 2005 identifies the weakness of children with SLI in judging verbal morphology. See Rondal and Seron 2000 for a broad collection of articles and Jakubowicz and Tuller 2008 for a recent review. Research on French has made deeper contributions to knowledge about SLI, however, in that it has also focused on cross-population studies (see the articles in Relationship with Other Disorders), on study of persistence of SLI in adolescents and of avoidance strategies (see the articles in Persistence), and on study of computational complexity (see the articles in Computational Complexity and the Performance System).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Chevrie-Muller, Claude. 1996. Troubles spécifiques du développement du langage: Dysphasies de développement. In Le langage de l’enfant: Aspects normaux et pathologiques. Edited by Claude Chevrie-Muller and Juan Narbona, 255–281. Issy-les-Moulineaux, France: Elsevier-Masson.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      (English title: Specific Language Impairments: Developmental Dysphasia). Gives an early overview of the characteristic phenomena in French, focusing on the distinction of functional and lexical material and on similarities and differences to other languages.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Hamann, Cornelia, Stephany Cronel-Ohayon, Sebastian Dubé, et al. 2003. Aspects of grammatical development in young French children with SLI. Developmental Science 6:151–158.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1111/1467-7687.00265Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Compares French-speaking children with SLI under the age of five (five children) and above the age of five (five children). Finds infinitive use in some of the younger children only, singles out the omission of object clitics as persistent.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Jakubowicz, Celia, and Laurice Tuller. 2008. Specific language impairment in French. In Studies in French applied linguistics. Edited by Dalila Ayoun, 97–134. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1075/lllt.21Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Gives a general introduction to the study of SLI (definition, diagnosis, age, homogeneity, causes, clinical markers). Reports on results from different research groups working on French in Belgium, Canada, France, and Switzerland, on different language areas (clitics, complex tenses, verbal agreement, subordination, wh-questions), on cross-population studies, and on persistence of difficulties.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Le Normand, Marie Therèse, Danièle Truscelli, Françoise de Barbot, and Dominique Lasek 1998. Acquisition du langage chez deux enfants atteintes d’une dysphasie de développement: Étude longitudinal et comparative. Approche neuropsychologique des apprentissages chez l’enfant 49–50:136–141.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            (English title: Language Acquisition in Two Children with Developmental Dysphasia: A Comparative Longitudinal Study). Contrasts the acquisition of lexical and functional categories, shows that auxiliaries are often omitted whereas determiners are mastered; difficulties with nominative clitics are highlighted.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Maillart, Christelle, and Marie-Anne Schelstraete. 2005. Grammaticality judgment in French-speaking children with specific language impairment. Journal of Multilingual Communication Disorders 3:103–109.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1080/14769670500066479Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Studied children between 7;10 and 11;6 years of age with respect to detection of different grammaticality violations: verbal morphology and word order; find more difficulties in the former; compare their results to previous studies using similar methodologies.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Paradis, Johanne, and Martha Crago. 2001. The morphosyntax of specific language impairment in French: Evidence for an extended optional default account. Language Acquisition 9:269–300.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1207/S15327817LA0904_01Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Argues for a version of the (EOI) extended optional infinitive account for French SLI by using omission of auxiliaries and production of stem forms as manifestations of a default form without tense or agreement marking, which in English is manifested as the infinitive.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Paradis, Johanne, Martha Crago, and Fred Genesee. 2003. Object clitics as a clinical marker of SLI in French: Evidence from French-English bilingual children. In Proceedings of the 27th annual Boston University conference on language development, Boston, MA, 1–3 November 2002. Edited by Barbara Beachley, Amanda Brown, and Frances Conlin, 638–649. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Singles out the difficulties with accusative clitics in French SLI as a candidate for a clinical marker by showing that English pronouns are not a problem in the same individual. But see the results in Tuller, et al. 2011 (cited under Computational Complexity and the Performance System) across developmental language disorders with different causes for atypical development.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Rondal, Jean, and Xavier Seron, eds. 2000. Troubles du langage: Bases théorique, diagnostic et rééducation. Liège, Belgium: Mardaga.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    (English title: Language Disorders: Theoretical Bases, Diagnostics and Rehabilitation). The authors offer quite an extensive representation of research on language disorders in French-speaking children and adults.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    German

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    In the section Early Observations on the Language Disorder and Terminology it is noted that the study of SLI has a long history in Germany, on the clinical as well as on the psychological side. Linguistically oriented research began in the 1980s, see Grimm 1983. Clahsen, et al. 1997; Rice, et al. 1997; and Hamann, et al. 1998 study German spontaneous production of verbal morphology and verb-placement with theoretically informed analysis methods and identify different characteristics for German SLI. Eisenbeiss, et al. 2006 concentrates on the development of case marking. Lexical and semantic development and comprehension are studied in Rothweiler 1999 and Penner, et al. 2003. See also Schulz and Roeper 2011 (cited under Semantic-Pragmatic Deficits). Schöler, et al. 1998 examines German SLI in experimental studies focusing on processing and working memory.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Clahsen, Harald, Susanne Bartke, and Sandra Göllner. 1997. Formal features in impaired grammars: A comparison of English and German SLI children. Journal of Neurolinguistics 10:151–171.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1016/S0911-6044(97)00006-7Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The agreement deficit hypothesis in a minimalist framework. Claim: only optional non-interpretable features are impaired, that is, only verbal agreement features. Compares productions of German and English children with SLI. Tense is found to be relatively spared in both languages whereas agreement is an area of particular difficulty. These results have proven controversial.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Eisenbeiss, Sonja, Susanne Bartke, and Harald Clahsen. 2006. Structural and lexical case in child German: Evidence from language-impaired and typically developing children. Language Acquisition 13:3–32.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1207/s15327817la1301_2Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Discussion of structural and lexical case and investigation of spontaneous productions of five children with SLI and of five TD children. Both groups master structural case and overgeneralize structural case to contexts for lexical case. Since structural case is not affected, the agreement hypothesis (Clahsen, et al. 1997) is corroborated.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Grimm, Hannelore. 1983. Kognitions- und interaktionspsychologische Aspekte der Entwicklungsdysphasie. Sprache und Kognition 3:169–186.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          (English title: Cognitive and Interactional Psychological Aspects of Developmental Dysphasia). Emphasizes the finding that verbs, also finite verbs, often occur in sentence final position in spontaneous productions of German children with SLI.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Hamann, Cornelia, Zvi Penner, and Katrin Lindner. 1998. German impaired grammar: The clause structure revisited. Language Acquisition 7:193–246.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1207/s15327817la0702-4_5Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            In a search for an account of the syntactic deficit in SLI, verbal morphology, verb placement, and wh-questions and subordination are investigated. As in Grimm 1983, finite verbs in final sentence position are found to be a striking phenomenon in German SLI. In addition, wh-questions and subordination are difficult. Authors suggest a default grammar instead of an agreement deficit.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Penner, Zvi, Petra Schulz, and Karin Wymann. 2003. Learning the meaning of verbs: What distinguishes language impaired from normally developing children? Linguistics 41.2: 289–319.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              German resultative verb concepts are often captured in verb particle constructions, allowing for investigation of the comprehension of the resultative and the process component of the verb auf-machen (literally‚ “open-make,” “to open”). Children with SLI start with the process component and not the result.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Rice, Mabel, Karen Ruff Noll, and Hannelore Grimm. 1997. An extended optional infinitive sage in German-speaking children with specific language impairment. Language Acquisition 6:255–295.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1207/s15327817la0604_1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Provides evidence that tense is impaired whereas subject-verb agreement is spared in German SLI; compares analysis methods to explain different outcomes (Clahsen, et al. 1997). Applies the extended optional infinitive account to German SLI.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Rothweiler, Monika. 1999. Neue Ergebnisse zum fast mapping bei sprachnormalen und sprachentwicklungsgestörten Kindern. In Das Lexikon im Spracherwerb. Edited by Jörg Meibauer and Monika Rothweiler, 252–277. Tübingen, Germany: A. Francke Verlag.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  (English title: New Results on Fast Mapping in Typical and Develomentally Language-Impaired Children). Using novel nouns and verbs in an experiment of lexical learning, Rothweiler showed that fast mapping is, in principle, available in children with SLI, in contrast to previous findings in experiments using real, but rare words. Storage and recall, however, were found to be impaired in children with small vocabularies.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Schöler, Herrman, Waldemar Fromm, and Werner Kany. 1998. Spezifische Sprachentwicklungsstörung und Sprachlernen. Heidelberg, Germany: Universitätsverlag C. Winter.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    (English title: Developmental Language Disorders and Language Learning). Sums up the results of a long research project on language acquisition in German. The articles cover a wide range of areas and pursue the idea that (phonological) working memory is limited in children with SLI. One of the aims of the project was the development of diagnostic tests.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Greek

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Greek is a morphologically rich language with “fusion” in the verbal paradigm so that verbal affixes are rarely omitted, which makes Greek interesting to study in language impairment. Both verbal and nominal morphology have been investigated and turn out to be difficult in SLI, with Clahsen and Dalakakis 1999 focusing on verbal morphology, Tsimpli and Stavrakaki 1999 on the nominal functional system, and Tsimpli 2001 bringing both together. In particular, Tsimpli 2001 proposes that all uninterpretable features are impaired not only in Greek, but also generally in SLI, a hypothesis that contrasts sharply with the analysis in Clahsen and Dalakakis 1999. Complex syntactic constructions have also been investigated in Stavrakaki 2001, a study of relative clauses, and Mastropavlou and Tsimpli 2011, which gives a detailed account of subordination and problems with special types of complementizers. Recently, online methods have been applied to the study of nominal functional elements in Chondrogianni, et al. 2010, and varieties of Greek, such as Cypriot Greek, have been investigated in Kambaranos and Grohmann 2011.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Chondrogianni, Vicky, Theo Marinis, and Susan I. Edwards. 2010. On-line processing of articles and clitic pronouns by Greek children with SLI. In Proceedings of the 34th annual Boston University conference on language development, Boston, MA, 6–8 November 2009. Edited by Katie Franich, Kate M. Iserman, and Lauren L. Keil, 78–89. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Concise proceedings article; shows that Greek SLI children are sensitive to omission of definite determiners but not to omission of clitics. Provides evidence against the surface hypothesis.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Clahsen, Harald, and Jennifer Dalakakis. 1999. Tense and agreement in Greek SLI: A case study. Essex Reports in Linguistics 24:1–25.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Argue for an agreement deficit in Greek—as assumed also for German.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Kambaranos, Maria, and Kleanthes Grohmann. 2011. Patterns of naming objects and actions in Cypriot Greek children with SLI and WFDs. In Selected papers from the 19th international symposium on theoretical and applied linguistics, Thessaloniki, 3–5 April 2009. Edited by Anastasios Tsangalide, 233–242. Thessaloniki, Greece: Monochromia.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Interesting conference paper; factors in the dialectal situation.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Mastropavlou, Maria, and Ianthi Tsimpli. 2011. Complementizers and subordination in typical language acquisition and SLI. Lingua 121:442–462.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1016/j.lingua.2010.10.009Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Argues that the emergence of specific types of subordinate clauses is tied to the nature of the features encoded in the subordinator (interpretability), not necessarily to the complexity of the embedding.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Stavrakaki, Stavroula. 2001. Comprehension of reversible relative clauses in specifically language impaired and normally developing Greek children. Brain and Language 77:419–431.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1006/brln.2000.2412Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Based on the author’s PhD thesis, the author studies a group of eight children with SLI; argues for interaction of processing demands and grammatical deficits.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Tsimpli, Ianthi. 2001. LF-interpretability and language development: A study of verbal and nominal features in normally developing and SLI Greek children. Brain and Language 77:432–448.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1006/brln.2000.2413Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Apart from providing arguments for the vulnerability of non-interpretable features, informative selection of data on Greek.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Tsimpli, Ianthi, and Stavroula Stavrakaki. 1999. The effects of a morpho-syntactic deficit in the determiner system: The case of a Greek SLI child. Lingua 108:31–85.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1016/S0024-3841(98)00041-2Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Carefully presented evidence, validates case studies.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Hebrew

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  In Hebrew, verbal agreement morphology has been found to be problematic. Errors are substitution, not omission errors, however, due to Hebrew morphology, and they occur mostly when forms are complex, that is, concern more than one feature, as Dromi, et al. 2003 points out. Armon-Lotem, et al. 2012 also focuses on verb morphology when considering bilingual children with SLI. Friedmann and colleagues investigate production and comprehension of wh-questions and relative clauses and other areas of syntax, as in Novogrodsky and Friedmann 2006 and Friedmann and Novogrodsky 2011.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Armon-Lotem, Galit Adam, Anat Blass, et al. 2012. Verb inflections as indicators of bilingual SLI: Qualitative vs. quantitative measures. In Current issues in bilingualism: Cognitive and socio-linguistic perspectives. Edited by Mark Leikin, Yishai Tobin, and Mila Schartz, 179–200. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1007/978-94-007-2327-6Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ties earlier results to investigation of bilinguals.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Dromi, Esther, Laurence Leonard, and Anat Blass. 2003. Different methodologies yield incongruous results: A study of the spontaneous use of verb forms in Hebrew. In Language competence across populations. Edited by Yonata Levy and Jeanette Schaeffer, 233–258. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Sums up findings from earlier studies of this group; contrasts earlier findings on elicited production with spontaneous production.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Friedmann, Naama, and Rama Novogrodsky. 2011. Which questions are most difficult to understand? The comprehension of wh-questions in three subtypes of SLI. Lingua 121:367–382.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1016/j.lingua.2010.10.004Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Takes up research on different types of wh-questions, the “intervener” problem in wh-NP (which-questions), ties this together with earlier research and discusses the underlying nature of the impairment in different subgroups of SLI. Very comprehensible report of original research.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Novogrodsky, Rama, and Naama Friedmann. 2006. The production of relative clauses in SLI: A window to the nature of the impairment. Advances in Speech-Language Pathology 8:364–375.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Finds that object relative clauses are most difficult, explores possible reasons, tends to an explanation appealing to difficulties in theta-role assignment in noncanonical structures.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Italian

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Many problems with verbal morphology observed for English and other Germanic languages have not been observed for Romance languages, with Italian a case in point (see Leonard, et al. 1987). Problems have been located in the determiner system whereas pronominal clitics seem to be problematic only in complex tenses and other complex constructions, as shown in Bottari, et al. 1998 and Bottari, et al. 2000. Bortolino, et al. 2002 also identifies not only determiners, but also certain verbal inflections as problematic and possible markers. Italian thus seems to present a picture different from French, a view that contrasts with the findings of Arosio, et al. 2010, which shows that object clitics do present a clinical marker in Italian school-age children. Early overviews of the impairments are presented in Bortolino, et al. 1997 and Cipriani Paola, et al. 1998, the latter from a longitudinal perspective. Recently, areas of syntactic complexity have been investigated with different methodologies and in close connection to theoretical developments in syntactic theory, as in Contemori and Garraffa 2010.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Arosio, Fabrizio, Chiara Branchini, Mattero Forgiarini, and Maria-Teresa Guasti. 2010. SLI children’s weakness in morphosyntax and pragmatics. In The proceedings of the 11th Tokyo conference on psycholinguistics, Tokyo, March 2009. Edited by Yukio Otsu, 57–78. Tokyo: Hituzi Syobo Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Tests ten Italian school-age children on clitic production with elicitation tasks and also investigates quantifier comprehension; contrasts this group with two control groups; singles out clitic omission as a characteristic of SLI.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Bortolino, Umberta, Maria C. Caselli, and Laurence B. Leonard. 1997. Grammatical deficits in Italian-speaking children with specific language impairment. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research 40:809–820.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Overview of different areas of morpho-syntax.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Bortolino, Umberta, Maria C. Caselli, Patricia Deevy, and Laurence B. Leonard. 2002. Specific language impairment in Italian: The first steps in the search for a clinical marker. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders 37:77–93.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1080/13682820110116758Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Singles out definite singular articles and third- person plural inflections as markers identifying children with SLI. The same group later also investigated clitics with results similar to those in Arosio, et al. 2010.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Bottari, Piero, Paola Cipriani, and Anna-Maria Chilosi. 2000. Dissociations in the acquisition of clitic pronouns by dyphasic children: A case study from Italian. In The acquisition of scrambling and cliticization. Edited by Susan Powers and Cornelia Hamann, 237–278. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1007/978-94-017-3232-1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Isolates the contexts in which clitics are difficult for children with SLI; based on spontaneous speech. Relevant as to comparisons with French, for SLI, and for the grammars of these two related languages.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Bottari, Piero, Paola Cipriani, Anna-Maria Chilosi, and Lucia Pfanner. 1998. The determiner system in a group of Italian children with SLI. Language Acquisition 7:285–315.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1207/s15327817la0702-4_7Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Shows that omissions are the most frequent error; explores different explanations; argues against a surface account.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Cipriani Paola, Piero Bottari, Anna-Maria Chilosi, and Lucia Pfanner. 1998. A longitudinal perspective on the study of specific language impairment: A case study from Italian. International Journal of Language and Communication 33:245–280.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1080/136828298247749Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Shows, for instance, that omissions of clitics vanish in later development and spontaneous production, yet NPs are still overused—similar to French children with SLI.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Contemori, Carla, and Maria Garraffa. 2010. A cross-modality study on syntax in SLI: The limits of computation as a measure of linguistic abilities. Lingua 8.120: 1940–1955.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Compares comprehension and production of relative clauses; finds relatively spared comprehension, but highly impaired production in children with SLI.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Leonard, Laurence, Laura Sabbadini, and Virginia Volterra. 1987. Specific language impairment in children: A cross-linguistic study. Brain and Language 32:233–252.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1016/0093-934X(87)90126-XSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          One of the first studies to investigate morphologically different languages. A classic.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Swedish

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Swedish is interesting to investigate since it has characteristics resembling English (poor verbal morphology, VO order in subordinate clauses) as well as showing verb placement (V2) in main clauses as in German or Dutch. Researchers on Swedish SLI have described morpho-syntax (see Hansson and Nettelbladt 1995 or Leonard, et al. 2004), but they have also investigated complex syntactic constructions such as wh-questions, as discussed in Hansson and Nettelbladt 2006, and relative clauses, as discussed in Håkansson and Hansson 2000 and Hansson and Nettelbladt 2006, thus enabling comparisons with findings from other languages.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Turkish

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Investigation of SLI has started only recently. Topbaş and Yavaş 2010 presents evaluation tools and research on Turkish in Turkey and in bilingual populations.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Topbaş, Seyhun, and Mehmet Yavaş, eds. 2010. Communication disorders in Turkish monolingual and multilingual settings. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Contains new research on Turkish: assessment methods, characteristics of Turkish SLI in Turkey, and in different bilingual settings (as Turkish-Dutch, Turkish-German).

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Other Languages

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Quite a rich literature exists on Inuktitut grammar, acquisition, and language disorders originating from the Crago/Allen group (Crago and Allen 1996) while investigation on Chinese has started only recently (Fletcher, et al. 2005) and, so far, only one article on language impairment in Arabic (Abdalla and Crago 2008) has been published.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Abdalla, Fauzia, and Martha Crago. 2008. Verb morphology deficit in Arabic-speaking children with specific language impairment. Applied Psycholinguistics 29:315–340.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Finds particular difficulties in tense, third-person and feminine agreement inflections; use of imperatives as default forms (lack of infinitives in Arabic); suggests this use as a marker for Arabic SLI.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Crago, Martha, and Shanley Allen. 1996. Building the case for impairment in linguistic representation. In Towards a genetics of language. Edited by Mabel L. Rice, 261–289. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Uses data from Inuktitut; discusses the status of default forms.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Fletcher, Paul, Stephanie Stokes, and Anita Wong. 2005. Constructions and language development: Implications for language impairment. In Developmental theory and language disorders. Edited by Paul Fletcher and Jon Miller, 35–52. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1075/tilar.4Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Focuses on SLI in Cantonese, reports on previous studies form this group and the identification of children with SLI in Hong Kong; investigates the aspect marker.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Bilingualism

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Since the 1990s the rising percentage of children growing up bilingually (simultaneous or successive bilingualism) has become a focus of research in language development and language impairment. Recent overviews and research directions are provided in de Jong 2008; Paradis 2010, which is a keynote article with replies and comments; Hamann 2012; and Peña and Bedore 2008. Paradis, et al. 2003 highlights the difficulty by targeting the search for clinical markers in bilingual children. Relevant articles can be found in Genesee, et al. 2004. Recent special issues of Journal of Communication Disorders (Vejdemo 2010) and Bilingualism: Language and Cognition (Armon-Lotem 2012) are likewise dedicated to the subject.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Armon-Lotem, Sharon, ed. 2012. Special issue: Specific Language Impairment in Bilingual Children. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 15.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Collection of recent research articles, linguistic perspective.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • de Jong, Jan. 2008. Bilingualism and language impairment. In Handbook of clinical linguistics. Edited by Martin J. Ball, Michael R. Perkin, Nicole Müller, and Sara Howard, 261–274. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1002/9781444301007Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Concise introduction to the problems and the research results.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Genesee, Fred, Johanne Paradis, and Martha Crago. 2004. Dual language development and disorders: A handbook on bilingualism and second language learning. Baltimore: Brookes.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Informative collection of articles. Discuss the risk of under-identification and of over-identification of language impairment in bilingual children.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Hamann, Cornelia. 2012. Bilingual development and language assessment. In Proceedings of the 36th annual Boston University conference on language development, Boston, MA, 4–6 November 2011. Edited by Alia K. Biller, Esther Y. Chung, and Amelia E. Kimball, 1–28. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Reports on research in bilingualism and SLI and outlines research directions for provision of more reliable assessment tools for bilinguals.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Paradis, Johanne. 2010. The interface between bilingual development and specific language impairment: Keynote article. Applied Psycholinguistics 31:227–252.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1017/S0142716409990373Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Impressive overview, argues for domain/language specific SLI by contrasting her group’s research results on SLI in bilinguals with a slow processing account, which might predict cumulative effects of SLI and L2.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Paradis, Johanne, Martha Crago, and Fred Genesee. 2003. Object clitics as a clinical marker of SLI in French: Evidence from French-English bilingual children. In Proceedings of the 27th annual Boston University conference on language development, Boston, MA, 1–3 November 2002. Edited by Barbara Beachley, Amanda Brown, and Frances Conlin, 638–649. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Singles out the difficulties with accusative clitics in French SLI as a candidate for a clinical marker also in bilingualism by showing that English pronouns are not a problem in the same individual. But see the results from Tuller, et al. 2011 (cited under Relationship with Other Disorders) across developmental language disorders with different causes for atypical development.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Peña, Elizabeth, and Lisa Bedore. 2008. Bilingualism in child language disorders. In Handbook of child language disorders. Edited by Richard G. Schwartz, 281–307. Hove, UK: Psychology Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The authors review theories of bilingual language acquisition, research on SLI in different L1s, and report on their own research on language assessment in Spanish-English bilinguals.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Vejdemo, Susanne, ed. 2010. Special issue: Clinics in Communication Disorders: Assessment and Intervention of Bilingual Children with SLI. Journal of Communication Disorders 43.6.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Research articles, linguistic and clinical.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Issues for Bilingual Development

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Research on SLI in bilinguals is important from two points of view. First, it needs to be established whether or not growing up bilingually exacerbates language impairment in order to be able to plan intervention. Second, the observation that many so-called clinical markers of SLI are also found in early successive bilingualism has to be taken into account not only in assessment materials, but also in theories about the nature and causes of SLI. Håkansson and Nettelbladt 1996 was the first article to point out that the language profiles of early successive bilinguals and children with SLI looked remarkably alike. Since then, research has indicated that SLI is not necessarily exacerbated in simultaneous bilingual development (Paradis, et al. 2003), though results are contradictory for successive bilingualism (see Paradis 2010, cited under Bilingualism for discussion). To further demonstrate that SLI and bilingualism are not “two of a kind” (Paradis 2010, cited under Bilingualism, p. 230), the search for linguistic markers of SLI in bilinguals is in full progress. Armon-Lotem, et al. 2011 uses verbal-inflection in Hebrew while Chilla and Babur 2010 and Rothweiler, et al. 2012 specifically investigate verbal agreement and Restrepo 1998 points to the validity of parental reports. The search is now turning to areas other than morpho-syntax because of the overlap in markers, as pointed out in de Villiers, et al. 2008, or because it could be easier to identify processing difficulties, as suggested in Kohnert, et al. 2009.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Armon-Lotem, Sharon, Galit Adam, Anat Blass, Efrat Harel, Elinor Saiegh-Haddad, and Joel Walters. 2011. Verb inflections as indicators of bilingual SLI: Qualitative vs. quantitative measurements. In Current issues in bilingualism: Cognitive and socio-linguistic perspectives. Edited by Mark Leikin, Yishai Tobin, and Mila Schartz, 291–317. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Shows that impaired bilinguals show similar performance on verbal morphology as impaired monolinguals, also making the same kind of errors (substitutions especially in the presence of feature complexes), sometimes, however, showing better performance than monolinguals.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Chilla, Solveig, and Ezel Babur. 2010. Specific language impairment in Turkish-German bilingual children: Aspects of assessment and outcome. In Communication disorders in Turkish. Edited by Seyhun Topbaş and Mehmet Yavaş, 352–368. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Typical early bilinguals acquired verb placement concomitantly with subject-verb agreement, impaired bilinguals did not.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • de Villiers, Jill, Thomas Roeper, Linda Bland-Stewart, and Barbara Pearson. 2008. Answering hard questions: Wh-movement across dialects and disorder. Applied Psycholinguistics 29:67–103.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Concentrates on children speaking African-American English (AAE) (thus not on bilinguals in the narrow sense) and demonstrates that a morpho-syntactic test of Standard American with a focus on tense and agreement markers does not do justice to African-American children’s language abilities since omission of these markers is a feature of regular AAE grammar. Instead, emphasis is on the interpretation of questions, which has been shown to be problematic for children with SLI in several languages (see also Schulz and Roeper 2011, cited under Semantic-Pragmatic Deficits).

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Håkansson, Gisela, and Ulrike Nettelbladt. 1996. Similarities between SLI and L2 children: Evidence from the acquisition of Swedish word order. In Children’s language: Volume 9. Edited by John Gilbert and Carolyn Johnson, 135–152. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Investigates verb placement in Swedish (L2) in successive bilingual children; compares this to results on SLI in Swedish.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Kohnert, Kathryn, Jennifer Windsor, and Kerry Danahy Ebert. 2009. Primary or “specific” language impairment and children learning a second language. Brain and Language 109:101–111.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Thorough overview on comparative research on working memory and executive function performance in bilinguals and children with SLI. Tests on working memory would avoid confounds with similar language difficulties, but they cannot always tell apart typical bilinguals and bilinguals with SLI.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Paradis, Johanne, Martha Crago, Fred Genesee, and Mabel Rice. 2003. Bilingual children with specific language impairment: How do they compare with their monolingual peers? Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research 46:1–15.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Demonstrates that bilingual children with SLI show the same profiles in both their languages as monolingual children with SLI in the respective languages.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Restrepo, Maria A. 1998. Identifiers of predominantly Spanish-speaking children with language impairment. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Disorders 41:1398–1411.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Validates (inter alia) parental report as identifying impairments also for bilingual populations.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Rothweiler, Monika, Solveig Chilla, and Harald Clahsen. 2012. Subject verb agreement in specific language impairment: A study of monolingual and bilingual German-speaking children. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 15:39–57.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Focuses on difficulties with subject-verb agreement as a marker for SLI in both populations; investigates early successive Turkish-German bilinguals.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Relationship with Other Disorders

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Though an overlap with disorders such as autism, hearing loss, and Down or Williams Syndrome is explicitly excluded in the definition of SLI, comparisons have been made from two perspectives: the search for clinical markers and the search for the underlying cause of SLI. Genetic closeness of SLI and autism has also raised many questions, so that language impairments found in autism and SLI have been compared. Bishop 2008 starts from the discovery that SLI and autism are linked to neighboring chromosomal areas and concentrates on familial aggregation of SLI and autism, whereas Botting and Conti-Ramsden 2003 investigates how far certain tests can be used as markers of SLI, of autism, and of primary pragmatic language impairment, thus telling this syndrome apart from autism. Tager-Flusberg 2004 also concentrates on the overlaps in these syndromes, especially on subgroups of children with autism who show language patterns similar to SLI, and speculates about the genetic implications of these overlaps. Similarly, comparison of hearing impaired children with children with SLI can be decisive in teasing apart the influence of language intake and impairments inherent in grammar or language processing, as Tuller, et al. 2011 suggests. Differences in the language abilities of children with SLI and with Williams Syndrome are taken to provide evidence for the modularity of language and the domain specificity of SLI in Clahsen and Temple 2003. Overview articles on different disorders can be found in Schwartz 2008 (see Handbooks).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Bishop, Dorothy. 2008. Specific language impairment, dyslexia and autism: Using genetics to unravel their relationship. In Understanding developmental language disorders: From theory to practice. Edited by Courtenay F. Norbury, J. Bruce Tomblin, and Dorothy V. M. Bishop, 67–78. Hove, UK: Psychology Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Draws together research on familial aggregation of incidents of autism and SLI and research on the identification of chromosomal regions linked to autism and/or SLI.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Botting, N., and Gina Conti-Ramsden. 2003. Autism, primary pragmatic difficulties and specific language impairment: Can we distinguish them using psycholinguistic markers? Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology 45:515–524.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-8749.2003.tb00951.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Discusses the overlap and differences in language performance of children with pragmatic SLI and autistic children.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Clahsen, Harald, and Christine Temple. 2003. Words and rules in children with Williams syndrome. In Language competence across populations. Edited by Yonata Levy and Jeanette Schaeffer, 323–352. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Differences between Williams syndrome and SLI are highlighted: children with WS overapply regular past tense rule and do not show syntactic core deficits.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Tager-Flusberg, Helen. 2004. Do autism and specific language impairment represent overlapping language disorders? In Developmental language disorders. Edited by Mabel L. Rice and Steven R. Warren, 7–30. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Stresses the heterogeneity of both impairments that makes general comparison difficult. Reports on results from standard language test batteries (Peabody, TOLD) administered to autistic children in showing overlap of autistic subgroups with SLI.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Tuller, Laurice, Helène Delage, Cecile Monjauze, Anne-Gaelle Piller, and Marie-Anne Barthez. 2011. Clitic pronoun production as a measure of atypical language development in French. Lingua 121:423–441.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1016/j.lingua.2010.10.008Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Investigates children and adolescents with different developmental language disorders (mild to moderate hearing loss, SLI, and Rolandic epilepsy), shows that third-person object clitics remain weak in adolescence across these syndromes and concludes that the difficulty with object clitics is due to problems in extra-linguistic systems, which interact with the complexity of linguistic derivations.

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