Projects

DISSERTATION PROJECT: LANGUAGE PROCESSING AND AWARENESS IN SWEDISH-SPEAKING SCHOOL-AGE CHILDREN WITH AND WITHOUT LANGUAGE IMPAIRMENT

Abstract:

Background: Language impairment (LI) in school-age children is less explored than in younger children, particularly in languages other than English. Emergentist theorists emphasize effects of frequency of words and morpho-syntactic patterns (lexical/structural frequency) on language processing. No studies have investigated frequency effects in morpho-syntactic error detection and correction tasks, which are common measures of metalinguistic awareness.

Aims: 1) Contribute to knowledge about LI in Swedish-speaking school-age children, 2) Investigate effects of frequency on error detection and correction, and 3) Discuss the metalinguistic demands of these tasks.

Methods: Ten-year-olds with LI or typical development (TD) participated in error detection (NLI=10, NTD=30) and correction (nLI=8, NTD=30). TD children also participated in error repetition (control experiment, n=29). Target sentences contained morpho-syntactic errors that characterize the language of young Swedish children with LI: the infinitive instead of past tense for regular/irregular verbs, and the omission of the indefinite article in common/neuter gender noun phrases. Target verbs and nouns were of high or low frequency (HF/LF).

Results: Error detection results showed that children with LI had specific difficulties with the target errors compared to a plural/singular control error. Children with LI had significantly weaker error detection/correction results than children with TD. All children showed effects of lexical and/or structural frequency in the tasks: LF verbs were associated with lower error sensitivity, fewer accurate corrections, and more accurate repetitions. Errors involving irregular verbs were more difficult to correct (but not to detect) than those involving regular verbs. Effects of lexical frequency were not seen for noun phrase errors, but the neuter article (with lower structural frequency) was associated with lower error sensitivity than the common article. Noun phrase errors were easier to correct than to detect for all children, and associated with lower accuracy in error repetition. The results indicate that error detection involves less explicit awareness than error correction and repetition. For error correction, LF words and verb errors seemed to involve more explicit awareness than HF words and noun phrase errors.

Conclusion: The results may help explain the variability in the morpho-syntactic performance of children with LI. Effects of frequency is important to consider when assessing grammatical/metalinguistic ability.

This dissertation was successfully defended on April 4, 2016 and was nominated for the NYU Steinhardt’s Outstanding Dissertation Award. Carol Miller (PSU) and Maria Grigos (NYU) served as readers.

The Dissertation Committee members were Christina Reuterskiöld (chair, NYU), Susannah Levi (NYU), Richard Schwartz (CUNY) and Sven Strömqvist (Lund University).

USING THE SALT PROGRAM TO ANALYZE CONTENT/FORM/USE INTERACTIONS IN CHILD LANGUAGE

In this project the software SALT (Systematic Analysis of Language Transcripts) is combined with the Bloom & Lahey coding system to analyze content/form/use interactions in language samples from individuals with language disorders. The combination of these two models will hopefully be an aid for clinicians and researchers in planning goals for child-language intervention. This project is a collaboration with Dr. Christina Reuterskiöld, Dr. Klein, E. Altman, Emily Hadden, and Masters’ students from NYU.

PROSODIC PATTERNS IN SWEDISH FORMULAIC UTTERANCES

The aim of this project was to find further support for the ”Dual Processing of Language” hypothesis, which postulates that formulaic utterances (familiar stereotyped expressions with conventionalized meaning, such as proverbs) are processed and stored holistically, in contrast to novel language, where lexicon and syntax is processed/retrieved separately. Tonal patterns and speaking rate were analyzed in proverbs and compared to matched control sentences in healthy adults and children. The results showed that personally and culturally familiar proverbs had common prosodic contours across speakers compared to matched control “novel” sentences. This gives support to the notion that words, syntax and prosody are stored and processed as wholes in formulaic expressions. This project was published in Applied Linguistics (2015). My advisor was Dr. Diana Sidtis.

PROJECTS AT THE NYU LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT AND DISORDERS LAB

I have been a member of Christina Reuterskiöld’s Language Development and Disorders Lab at New York University for six years and am still collaborating with them. For a description of members and current projects projects please visit the lab homepage.