Effects of immediate and cumulative syntactic experience in language impairment: Evidence from priming of subject relatives in children with SLI

Maria Garraffa, Moreno Coco, Holly P Branigan

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31 Citations (Scopus)


We investigated the production of subject relative clauses (SRc) in Italian pre-school children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI) and age-matched typically-developing children (TD) controls. In a structural priming paradigm, children described pictures after hearing the experimenter produce a bare noun or an SRc description, as part of a picture matching task. In a sentence repetition task, children repeated SRc. In the priming paradigm, children with SLI produced SRc after hearing the experimenter use SRc with the same or different lexical content; the magnitude of this priming effect was the same as in TDC. However, children with SLI showed a smaller cumulative priming effect than TDC. Children with SLI showed superior SRc performance in picture-matching than in sentence repetition. We propose that children with SLI have an abstract representation of SRc that can be facilitated by prior exposure, but exhibit impaired implicit learning mechanisms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-40
Number of pages23
JournalLanguage Learning and Development
Issue number1
Early online date14 Feb 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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