The semantics of the tense deficit in child Spanish SLI

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Children with SLI manifest difficulties with tense, however it is not clear whether it is limited to morphosyntax or extends to semantics. Typically-developing children show a bias towards using the telicity of predicates to guide their use of grammatical aspect and tense – possibly for information processing reasons (Wagner 2009). Using a comprehension experiment, with a sample of 53 monolingual Spanish-speaking children, 20 of whom are diagnosed with SLI, we investigate the degree to which children with SLI follow this pattern. Our results show that they do not, confirming for Spanish the English findings of Leonard et al. (2007) and Leonard and Deevy (2010), and suggesting that SLI is a deficit not only of the morphology and syntax of tense, but also of its semantics. Keywords: finiteness; tense; SLI; child language; Spanish; aspect first hypothesis; comprehension; optional infinitive


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