Early usage of DO in children with and without Specific Language Impairment
Blossom, Megan Stratton
University of Kansas
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This study examined the early uses of DO in the spontaneous language samples of 89 children, 37 with Specific Language Impairment, age 5;0-5;6, 37 age-equivalent control children, and 15 language-equivalent control children, age 2;6-4;10. Auxiliary DO has been examined in some studies of language acquisition because of its status a carrier of finiteness in questions and negations. However, DO has multiple functions which have received little or no attention in previous work on the early language abilities of children with and without SLI. This study sought to begin to fill that gap by documenting the affirmative DO uses in yes/no questions, wh- questions, proform contexts, elliptical contexts, and emphatic contexts. All DO uses in each child's spontaneous language sample were counted and categorized. Findings indicate that children with SLI showed lower levels of accuracy on both yes/no and wh- questions compared to the age-equivalent control group. Compared to the language-equivalent group children with SLI showed particular difficulty only with DO in wh-questions. Children with SLI showed remarkably high levels of accuracy on forms of DO where the DO carries semantic as well as syntactic information: proform and elliptical DO. The findings presented here are consistent with the Extended Optional Infinitive Account of SLI (Rice, Wexler, & Cleave 1995), and indicate that finiteness in the CP projection may be a particular area of weakness for children with SLI, as evidenced by poor performance on DO in questions.
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