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Res Dev Disabil. 2014 Feb;35(2):472-81. doi: 10.1016/j.ridd.2013.11.027. Epub 2013 Dec 20.

The impact of lexical frequency on sentence comprehension in children with specific language impairment.

Author information

  • 1Department of Psychology: Cognition and Behavior, University of Liege, Belgium; Belgian Fund of Scientific Research F.R.S.-FNRS, Belgium. Electronic address: al.leclercq@ulg.ac.be.
  • 2Department of Psychology: Cognition and Behavior, University of Liege, Belgium; Belgian Fund of Scientific Research F.R.S.-FNRS, Belgium.
  • 3Department of Psychology: Cognition and Behavior, University of Liege, Belgium.

Abstract

Children with SLI generally exhibit poor sentence comprehension skills. We examined the specific impact of grammatical complexity and lexical frequency on comprehension performance, yielding contrasting results. The present study sheds new light on sentence comprehension in children with SLI by investigating a linguistic factor which has attracted little research interest: the impact of the lexical frequency of known words on sentence comprehension. We also examined the impact of grammatical complexity and sentence length by independently varying these two factors. Fifteen children with SLI, 15 age- and IQ-matched controls, and 15 controls matched on lexical and grammatical skills, performed sentence comprehension tasks in which three linguistic factors were manipulated: lexical frequency (sentences containing words of either low or high lexical frequency), grammatical complexity (sentence containing either a subject relative clause or an object relative clause) and sentence length (either short or long sentences). Results indicated that children with SLI performed more poorly overall compared to age- and IQ-matched children and to lexical and morphosyntactic age-matched children. However, their performance was not more affected by either sentence length or clause type than that of control children. Only lexical frequency affected sentence comprehension to a greater extent in children with SLI relative to the control groups, revealing that SLI children's sentence comprehension abilities are particularly affected by the presence of low-frequency but familiar words.

Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

KEYWORDS:

Lexical frequency; Processing resources; Sentence comprehension; Specific language impairment; Vocabulary

PMID:
24361956
[PubMed - in process]
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