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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Thinking outloud: the problem-solving language of preschoolers with and without language impairment Sturn, Paula A.


Eighteen preschoolers were asked to build bridges out of diverse construction material, two children working in parallel. Their utterances were coded for task relevance, function(regulative vs. affective) and addressee (private vs. social). The language of six children with specific language impairment was compared to that of six age-matched, and six language-matched peers. Correlations between dependency, impulsivity and efficiency and language use were also investigated. 39% of the speech was narrowly task relevant and regulative. Similar proportions of private and social speech occurred but problem-solving language was more likely to be private (61 %). Group differences were found only in amount of speech. These findings indicate first that the correlation between function and addressee, while consonant with traditional accounts, is far from perfect: researchers interested in the intellectual functions of language should study both social and private speech. Second, language impaired children use speech for problem-solving to an age appropriate degree, though formulation problems may still reduce the efficacy of such use. A positive correlation was found between impulsivity and task irrelevant speech, while dependency was negatively correlated with the total number of utterances, the number of broadly task relevant utterances, and the number of social utterances. Correlations between efficiency and language use revealed a split between children with normal langauge and children with specific language impairment. Efficient children with normal language spoke more and devoted more of their speech to narrowly task relevant utterances. Efficient children with specific language impairment spoke less but also devoted a larger proportion of their speech to narrowly task relevant speech. These findings indicate that the intellectual function of language is used productively by efficient children regardless of language status but efficient children with specific langauge impairment rely on it less.

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