Article use in the spontaneous samples of children with specific language impairment: The importance of considering syntactic contexts

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Using spontaneous language samples from eight children with specific language impairment (SLI) and eight normally developing (ND) children matched to the SLI group on the basis of mean length of utterance, I calculated percentage use of articles in subject phrase contexts only, predicate phrase contexts only, and overall combined contexts. The SLI and ND groups showed highly similar profiles in article use. For both groups there were significant differences between use of articles in subject phrases and predicate phrases, which were obscured by determination of use in the combined contexts, though this is the more typically used procedure. Specifically, the children were less able to use articles in subject phrases. Furthermore, attempts at article use in subject phrases were less frequent, resulting in few obligatory contexts for subject articles in many samples. Some pairs of children showed equivalent mastery of articles in predicate contexts but diverged in their attempts to use articles in subject contexts. The member of the pair who attempted a greater number of articles in subject phrases showed the lower percentage of overall article use. Thus the overall percentage score was misleading in that children who were advanced enough to attempt subject article + noun constructions showed lower overall percentage use scores. To accurately describe children's abilities with the percentage use of articles score, more careful delineation of contexts is needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)153-160
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Linguistics and Phonetics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 1994



  • Articles
  • Grammatical morphemes
  • Predicates
  • Specific language impairment
  • Subjects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing

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