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What compound words mean to children with specific language impairment

  • KARLA K. MCGREGOR (a1), GWYNETH C. ROST (a1), LING YU GUO (a1) and LI SHENG (a1)


Sixteen children (17 age mates, 17 vocabulary mates) with specific language impairment (SLI) participated in two studies. In the first, they named fantasy objects. All groups coined novel noun–noun compounds on a majority of trials but only the SLI group had difficulty ordering the nouns as dictated by semantic context. In the second study, the children described the meaning of conventional noun–noun compounds. The SLI and AM groups did not differ in parsing the nouns, but the SLI group was poorer at explaining the semantic relationships between them. Compared to vocabulary mates, a larger proportion of the SLI group successfully parsed the compounds but a smaller proportion could explain them. These difficulties may reflect problems in the development of links within the semantic lexicon.


Corresponding author

ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE Karla K. McGregor, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, 121-C Speech and Hearing Center, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242. E-mail:


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Applied Psycholinguistics
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