Samples of the communicative behavior of a group of higher-level mentally retarded adults engaged in conversation with peers were examined for indications of mature linguistic competence, specifically, grammatical morpheme and complex sentence use. The findings confirmed the expectation that the eventual level of mastery of these aspects of linguistic competence in higher-level retarded individuals is relatively high. Evidence for a normal developmental progression in the mastery of the grammatical morphemes was also forthcoming. In an analysis of individual complex sentence structures, no relationship was found between relative frequency of use of different types of complex sentences and presumed order of acquisition. However, subjects' ability to combine complex sentences did appear to be related to the presumed order of acquisition, although other factors may have also contributed to this relationship. Unexpectedly, a significant negative correlation was observed between relative frequency of complex sentence use and an estimate of conversational communicative competence. A possible reason for this finding was discussed.
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