Processability Theory and language development in children with Specific Language Impairment

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Children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI) represent a special group among young monolingual children, since they have problems acquiring their first language. Most research deals with English-speaking children, and points to bound morphology as the problematic area. However, cross-linguistic studies show that SLI characteristics differ between languages, and that it is not always bound morphology that is affected but sometimes other phenomena, for example syntax or function words. The seemingly contradictory findings can be accommodated within Processability Theory (PT) and from the point of view of feature unification at different levels of processability. Focussing on individual performances instead of group means changes the perspective and makes it possible to analyze children with SLI as learners along a developmental continuum.


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