Development of Speech Disruptions in Narratives of Dutch-Speaking Children with Specific Language Impairment
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Purpose: This study examines the development of speech disruptions in Dutch speaking children with specific language impairment. The prediction was that frequency of speech disruptions and duration of silent pauses will decrease over time. Decrease of disfluency is indicative of gradual mastery of sentence formulation procedures. The children with SLI have been exposed to language for a longer period of time and acquired more experience with grammatical forms with age. If children with SLI, despite the disorder, improve their ability to formulate sentences, it is expected that the disfluency rate will decrease. Method: Nineteen children with SLI were followed longitudinally at ages 8, 9 and 10. Silent pauses, filled pauses, interjections, whole-word repetitions, part-word repetitions, revisions and (complex) stalls in the narratives of these children were analysed. Results: No significant differences between ages were found in total rate of silent pauses and vocal hesitations. However, some other significant changes were found: the rate of longer silent pauses (1000-2000 ms and >2000 ms) decreased and the rate of the shortest silent pauses (250-500 ms) increased between the ages 8 and 9. Furthermore, the results showed an increase in MLU-5 and complex sentences. Conclusions: These findings suggest that children with SLI become somewhat more fluent over time with respect to longer silent pauses. An explanation could be the progress in language ability of the children. Another explanation could be that there is a trade-off between longer silent pauses and vocal hesitations. Further research is necessary to investigate the development of the total amount of silent pauses, (complex) stalls, filled pauses, revisions and repetitions and interjections.