Infinitival Clauses in Children with Typical and Late Language Emergence: Supporting a Dimensional Account of Language Delay
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Children who do not speak single words by 2 years of age have been labeled as having late language emergence (LLE). While the majority of children with LLE recover by school-age, it has been argued that they often still perform below the level of their typical peers for specific linguistic skills. In this case, speech-language pathologists (SLPs) should consider language skills as varying along a dimension, rather than as simply impaired vs. unimpaired. To examine the dimensionality of language skill, this study compared infinitival clause production in 22 school-age children with and without LLE. The infinitive clauses were: catenatives, such as gonna; let us + verb, typically produced as let’s; unmarked infinitives such as make it go; and simple infinitives such as We want to run. The 22 participants included 11 with typical development and 11 with a history of LLE, sampled in a conversational context at 8-years of age. Analysis indicated that the groups did not statistically differ for use of the four types of infinitival clauses. However, the LLE group did use fewer simple infinitives, offering support for a dimensional model of language development.