Impaired Recognition of Metrical and Syntactic Boundaries in Children with Developmental Language Disorders.


Centre for Neuroscience in Education, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 3EB, UK. [Email]


In oral language, syntactic structure is cued in part by phrasal metrical hierarchies of acoustic stress patterns. For example, many children's texts use prosodic phrasing comprising tightly integrated hierarchies of metre and syntax to highlight the phonological and syntactic structure of language. Children with developmental language disorders (DLDs) are relatively insensitive to acoustic stress. Here, we disrupted the coincidence of metrical and syntactic boundaries as cued by stress patterns in children's texts so that metrical and/or syntactic phrasing conflicted. We tested three groups of children: children with DLD, age-matched typically developing controls (AMC) and younger language-matched controls (YLC). Children with DLDs and younger, language-matched controls were poor at spotting both metrical and syntactic disruptions. The data are interpreted within a prosodic phrasing hypothesis of DLD based on impaired acoustic processing of speech rhythm.

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