Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users, please click the view more button below to purchase a copy of this dissertation from Proquest.

(Some titles may also be available free of charge in our Open Access Dissertation Collection, so please check there first.)

Acquisition of noun phrase structure in children with specific language impairment

Eliane B Ramos, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This study investigated whether children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI) show difficulty acquiring Noun Phrase structure. A group of 10 children with SLI with an average age of 5 was tested with 3 experiments designed to probe their comprehension of articles, simple and complex possessive phrases, and their adherence to syntactic principles of binding and “wh” extraction. Their performance was compared with 2 groups of normally developing children, one group of 10 younger children matched to the SLI group according to Mean Length of Utterance (LM or Language Match group), and one group of 10 children matched to the SLI group according to age (AM or Age Match group). A spontaneous language sample was also obtained from the SLI and LM groups to compare their performances on spontaneous language and comprehension tasks. Significant differences were found between the SLI and AM groups in all tasks subject to statistical testing, and between the SLI and LM groups in some of the tasks. In tasks where significant differences were not found, there were differences in the response patterns of the SLI and LM groups. These results suggest that children with SLI show marked difficulty with Nominal Phrases and that their difficulty can be described as a limitation in their ability to project fully hierarchical phrase structures that affect their verbal and nominal system similarly. Comparisons between performance on spontaneous language and comprehension tasks suggest that reliance on spontaneous language production only can lead to an overestimation of children's grammatical ability.

Subject Area

Speech therapy|Preschool education

Recommended Citation

Ramos, Eliane B, "Acquisition of noun phrase structure in children with specific language impairment" (2000). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9960783.