City Research Online

Sentence Repetition in Deaf Children with Specific Language Impairment in British Sign Language

Marshall, C. R., Mason, K., Rowley, K. , Herman, R., Atkinson, J., Woll, B. & Morgan, G. (2014). Sentence Repetition in Deaf Children with Specific Language Impairment in British Sign Language. Language Learning and Development, 11(3), pp. 237-251. doi: 10.1080/15475441.2014.917557


Children with specific language impairment (SLI) perform poorly on sentence repetition tasks across different spoken languages, but until now, this methodology has not been investigated in children who have SLI in a signed language. Users of a natural sign language encode different sentence meanings through their choice of signs and by altering the sequence and inflections of these signs. Grammatical information is expressed through movement and configurational changes of the hands and face. The visual modality thus influences how grammatical morphology and syntax are instantiated. How would language impairment impact on the acquisition of these types of linguistic devices in child signers? We investigated sentence repetition skills in a group of 11 deaf children who display SLI in British Sign Language (BSL) and 11 deaf controls with no language impairment who were matched for age and years of BSL exposure. The SLI group was significantly less accurate on an overall accuracy score, and they repeated lexical items, overall sentence meaning, sign order, facial expressions, and verb morphological structures significantly less accurately than controls. This pattern of language deficits is consistent with the characterization of SLI in spoken languages even though expression is in a different modality. We conclude that explanations of SLI, and of poor sentence repetition by children with this disorder, must be able to account for both the spoken and signed modalities.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Language Learning and Development on 18 June 2014, available online:
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
R Medicine > RJ Pediatrics
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Language & Communication Science
SWORD Depositor:
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