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Narrative in adolescent specific language impairment (SLI): a comparison with peers across two different narrative genres

Wetherell, D., Botting, N. & Conti-Ramsden, G. (2007). Narrative in adolescent specific language impairment (SLI): a comparison with peers across two different narrative genres. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 42(5), pp. 583-605. doi: 10.1080/13682820601056228


Background: Narrative may provide a useful way in which to assess the language ability of adolescents with specific language impairment and may be more ecologically valid than standardized tests. However, the language of this age group is seldom studied and, furthermore, the effect of narrative genre has not been explored in detail.

Methods & Procedures: A total of 99 typically developing adolescents and 19 peers with specific language impairment were given two different types of narrative task: a story-telling condition and a conversational condition. Four areas of narrative (productivity, syntactic complexity, syntactic errors and performance) were assessed.

Outcomes & Results: The group with specific language impairment was poorer on most aspects of narrative confirming recent research that specific language impairment is a long-term disorder. A number of measures also showed interactions between group and genre, with story-telling proving to be a disproportionately more difficult task for the specific language impairment group. Error analysis also suggested that the specific language impairment group was making qualitatively different errors to the typically developing group, even within a genre.

Conclusions: Adolescents with specific language impairment are not only poorer at both types of narrative than peers, but also show different patterns of competence and error, and require more support from the narrative-partner.

Clinical Implications: Assessments of adolescents are less frequent than at younger ages. This is partly because of the sparsity of tests available in this age range. Qualitative analysis of narrative might prove a useful alternative. The findings suggest that in every-day conversation, young people with specific language impairment manage their difficulties more discreetly and this might make them harder to identify in a mainstream setting.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: Adolescent, Female, Humans, Language Development, Language Development Disorders, Language Tests, Male, Narration, Peer Group, Semantics
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Language & Communication Science
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