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Sentence repetition as a marker of DLD in Arabic (Taha et al., 2021)

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posted on 2021-11-15, 17:44 authored by Juhayna Taha, Vesna Stojanovik, Emma Pagnamenta
Purpose: Research on the typical and impaired grammatical acquisition of Arabic is limited. This study systematically examined the morphosyntactic abilities of Arabic-speaking children with and without developmental language disorder (DLD) using a novel sentence repetition task. The usefulness of the task as an indicator of DLD in Arabic was determined.
Method: A LITMUS (Language Impairment Testing in Multilingual Settings) sentence repetition task was developed in Palestinian Arabic (LITMUS-SR-PA-72) and administered to 30 children with DLD (M = 61.50 months, SD = 11.27) and 60 age-matched typically developing (TD) children (M = 63.85 months, SD = 10.16). The task targeted grammatical structures known to be problematic for Arabic-speaking children with DLD (language specific) and children with DLD across languages (language independent). Responses were scored using binary, error, and structural scoring methods.
Results: Children with DLD scored below TD children on the LITMUS-SR-PA-72, in general, and in the repetition of language-specific and language-independent structures. The frequency of morphosyntactic errors was higher in the DLD group relative to the TD group. Despite the large similarity of the type of morphosyntactic errors between the two groups, some atypical errors were exclusively produced by the DLD group. The three scoring methods showed good diagnostic power in the discrimination between children with DLD and children without DLD.
Conclusions: Sentence repetition was an area of difficulty for Palestinian Arabic–speaking children with DLD. The DLD group demonstrated difficulties with language-specific and language-independent structures, particularly complex sentences with noncanonical word order. Most grammatical errors made by the DLD group resembled those of the TD group and were mostly omissions or substitutions of grammatical affixes or omissions of function words. SR appears to hold promise as a good indicator for the presence or absence of DLD in Arabic. Further validation of these findings using population-based studies is warranted.

Supplemental Material S1. Average age of acquisition of 50 words included in the LITMUS-SR-PA-71. Data from Lebanese Arabic-speaking children (from Łuniewska et al., 2019).

Taha, J., Stojanovik, V., & Pagnamenta, E. (2021). Sentence repetition as a clinical marker of developmental language disorder: Evidence from Arabic. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. Advance online publication.


This work was funded by University of Reading International PhD studentship awarded to the first author.