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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Narratives of young children with language impairment: form versus content Oxelgren, Corinne Marilyn


It has been proposed that narratives reflect a diverse knowledge base. In the narratives produced by children with normally developing language, it is difficult to tease apart the various knowledge domains. However, for children with specific language impairment (SLI), there is asynchrony in the development of at least two knowledge domains, event knowledge and linguistic knowledge. This asynchrony makes it easier to separately examine these knowledge domains within the narrative context. Narrative event knowledge was the focus of this thesis. In particular, two studies were conducted to examine the narrative content structure abilities of younger children with SLI. In Study One, 10 children with SLI, ranging in age from 4-6 years, were language-matched with 10 normal-language (NL) children, ranging in age from 2-4 years. Two sets of line-drawn picture cards were used to elicit two separate narratives. A developmental narrative stages scheme, based on Trabasso, Stein, Rodkin, Munger and Baughn's (1992) research, was devised to score the data. It was hypothesized that children with SLI would produce narrative content structure in advance of their NL counterparts, given their age advantage and likely accompanying advantage in world experience and cognitive development. Data from the group with a lower language level supported the hypothesis. No strong trends were apparent for the group with a higher language level. Study Two mental age (MA) -matched 8 children with SLI (mean MA, 68 months) with 8 NL children (mean MA, 72 months). It was hypothesized that matching by mental age would hold cognitive abilities constant so therefore the two groups would produce equivalent narrative content structure. Overall findings in Study Two supported the hypothesis. However, data from the higher MA-matched group indicated a trend in which children with SLI produced less advanced narrative content structure than their NL counterparts. The two studies, taken together, suggest that as children develop, language experience plays an increasingly significant role in narrative content production.

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