Microstructure in the Narrative Ability of Children with Specific Language Impairment
Gils, S.J. van
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Narratives provide a quasi-naturalistic measure to explore the language abilities of children. The microstructural (local) level of a narrative concerns the linguistic structures (e.g. embedded clauses, conjunctions, noun phrases) used in the narrative construction. So, the microstructure provides information about a child’s morphosyntactic skills. The current study is a follow-up on the research of Duinmeijer (2010). In Duinmeijer (2010), the central question was whether the differences between story generation and story retelling will have an effect on the narrative scores obtained by children with specific language impairment (SLI), since attention and memory difficulties are often reported in this population. In this study, the aim was to examine how children with specific language impairment (SLI) distinguish themselves from their typically developing peers (TD) regarding their morphosyntactic abilities in the same types of verbal narratives. A group comparison (children with SLI and TD children) and a task comparison (a story generation task and a story retelling task) were performed on multiple grammaticality (i.e. word order, realization of obligatory verb arguments, inflectional morphology of the verb and the use of determiners and prepositions) and linguistic complexity variables (i.e. utterance length (MLU/MLUL), sentence structure, transitivity of verbs and the use of past/present tense). In both tasks, children with SLI produced significantly more ungrammatical utterances compared to TD children. In the story generation task, the two groups of children can only be distinguished by MLU, MLUL and the use of present/past tense. In the story retelling task, children with SLI produced fewer complex sentence structures than TD children. In the task comparison, both groups of children produced more grammatical errors in story generation as compared to story retelling. However, the degree of complexity of the language produced varied between the two tasks: more verb transitivity was found in story generation and there were more complex sentence structures in story retelling. In conclusion, the two narrative tasks (Frog Story and Bus Story) seem to emphasize different morphosyntactic skills.