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The Use and Productivity of Past Tense Morphology in Specific Language Impairment (Christensen & Hansson, 2012)

posted on 01.12.2012, 00:00 by Rikke Vang Christensen, Kristina Hansson
Purpose The authors' primary goal was to investigate the potential of past tense inflection as a clinical marker of Danish specific language impairment (SLI). They also wished to test the predictions of the extended optional infinitive (EOI) account and processing based accounts of SLI on Danish.
Method Using sentence completion and sentence repetition tasks, the authors investigated the use of past tense by 3 groups (n = 11 in each group): (a) children with SLI whose ages ranged from 5;2 (years;months) to 7;11; (b) children with typical language development matched on chronological age; and (c) children with typical language development matched on vocabulary.
Results Participants with SLI were less likely to produce past tense than were both typically developing control groups. In particular, only the children with SLI had difficulties with accurately producing past tense verbs during the sentence repetition task. Past tense accuracy was associated with children's productive vocabulary levels and proficiency with a nonword repetition task.
Conclusion Past tense use is potentially a clinical marker of Danish SLI, but more research is needed to confirm this. Results provided mixed support for competing accounts of SLI.


This research was funded by a PhD grant from the Faculty of Humanities, University of Copenhagen to the first author, who conducted the research. We thank Malene Olsen and Marie-Louise Wessel for their help with data collection, Kikki F�rsteliin Andersen (PhD student, SLT) for her assistance with the project, and Mette Underbjerg (PhD student, psychology), who contributed valuable assistance regarding the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence�Revised (Wechsler, 2006) and the interpretation of the children�s scores on the test. We also thank the speech-language clinicians, day care staff, and teachers who helped recruit participants. Finally, we are grateful to the children who participated in this study, thereby making insights into Danish SLI possible.