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Title: Vocabulary deficits in children with specific language impairment
Author: Nash, Marysia Christine
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2001
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Children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI) have unexpected difficulty developing language in the absence of a clear aetiology. Slowness to acquire their first words is a hallmark of SLI and a proportion of the children continue to have a vocabulary deficit (poor receptive and/or expressive vocabulary) compared with their peers. Some recent research suggests that children with SLI are poorer than controls at learning new words in experimental settings, but the nature and source of their word learning difficulties are still poorly understood. In particular it is unclear what aspects of new vocabulary are particularly hard to learn and which underlying cognitive processes are impaired. This thesis presents two sequentially related investigations which aim firstly to clarify the extent and nature of word learning deficits in children with SLI, and then to explore the source of their difficulties. In both studies 16 children with SLI, including poor receptive vocabulary, were compared to two control groups, one matched for age and non-verbal ability and another for receptive vocabulary and non-verbal ability. In the first investigation, four unfamiliar words were introduced six times in each of two contexts: a Story context and an Explicit Teaching context. Assessments exploring whether children had learned the sound (phonological form) and the meaning of the experimental words were carried out. Children with SLI were significantly poorer than the age matched controls on all tests of word learning. They were similar to the vocabulary matched controls on all measures except the naming task on which they were significantly poorer. The results suggest that children with SLI have global word learning problems but that they may have particular difficulty acquiring the phonological form of new words. The second study investigated whether SLI children’s word learning difficulties were due to problems in acquiring new phonological forms and/or in linking components of lexical representations. To study phonological learning, a paired association task was used in which children had to learn to associate nonwords with familiar words. Lexical linking was explored using the same procedure but with pairs of real words. The groups were also compared on seven measures of phonological processing and the relationship between phonological learning and processing was analysed in each group.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available