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J Commun Disord. 2009 Nov-Dec;42(6):428-41. doi: 10.1016/j.jcomdis.2009.07.001. Epub 2009 Jul 10.

Language and theory of mind in preschool children with specific language impairment.

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Department of Psychology, University of Florida, USA.


Language plays a critical role in the development of theory of mind (ToM). There is limited research, however, examining the role of specific components of language in ToM development for typical and clinical populations. The purpose of the current study is to examine the relative contributions of general grammar, grammatical tense markers, syntactic complementation, and receptive vocabulary on understanding standard ToM tasks in preschool children with specific language impairment (SLI). Thirty-four children with language disorders, ages 42-65 months, were administered a series of language and ToM measures. Hierarchical regression analyses were conducted to examine the relative contributions of language subcomponents to ToM task performance. The results indicated that general grammatical development and vocabulary contributed uniquely to ToM reasoning. Sentential complementation abilities did not make an independent contribution. Theoretical and clinical implications of the findings for different accounts of the role of language in ToM reasoning will be discussed.


Readers of the current study will be able to: (1) understand the relationship between language and ToM development in both typical and clinical populations; (2) understand the different ways in which various language components are related to false belief reasoning; and (3) consider the implications for intervening with children with language disorders.

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