Children with Specific Language Impairment

Term Paper, 2007

12 Pages, Grade: 2,3


Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2 Definition of Specific Language Impairment

3 Areas of difficulty of children with SLI
3.1 Pronunciation and lexicon
3.2 Grammatical deficits: syntax and morphology

4 Literacy development of children with SLI

5 Conclusion

6 Bibliography

1 Introduction

The infantile language acquisition is, under normal circumstances, a quick as well as robust event in every child’s life. Naturally, a child is able to acquire the language it is surrounded by rather easily, effortlessly and successfully. After all, it usually leads to accurate and fluent language habits which are not impaired in any way. “In most children, normal language development depends on opportunity, good hearing and the absence of underlying neurological problems” (Warwick 2003, p.11). If, on the other hand, the infantile development is impaired, e.g. due to cognitive, social-emotional or sensory deficits, the language acquisition may often be affected, too. Apart from this, there are many children (approximately 15%) who do not use more than 50 words and barely any elaborate word combinations when they are two years old, even though they don’t show any primary impairments (cf. Dannenbauer 2003). No apparent reason for their delayed language development can be found. Still, not less than half of these so-called “late talkers” are able to (linguistically) catch up with their peers in pre-school age (cf. ibd.).

However, the other part of those “late talkers” can reveal compact and persistent deficiencies in their receptive and/ or expressive use of language without showing any primary impairment such as mental retardation or another disability. Even so, these children remain behind their contemporaries in their language comprehension as well as language production. Individual children whose language is impaired in that way, in spite of being cognitively “normal”, are diagnosed with “Specific Language Impairment”. This paper will deal with this language disorder and try to show an outline of this phenomenon.

2 Definition of Specific Language Impairment

Specific Language Impairment (abbreviated as SLI) is understood as an impairment of the infantile acquisition of spoken language which can affect any of the structural levels of the human language, such as grammar, phonology, semantics or pragmatics. The formal features of the language-system are usually more affected than the content (semantics) or usage (pragmatics) of language. According to Laurence B. Leonard (2004), SLI is “a term applied to children who show a significant deficit in their spoken language ability with no obvious accompanying problems” (p. 402). It can be indicated by the fact that affected children are late in beginning to talk. Besides, they usually show a retarded, inconsistent course of speech development, even though the children’s non-verbal intelligence is on average. Hence, SLI is mostly applied to individuals who don’t reach expected levels of language performances and can’t be associated with intellectual impairment, hearing impairment, neuromotor impairments or clinical levels of socio-behavioral impairments (cf. Rice 2000).

Researchers find it difficult to agree on a universal definition for the phenomenon of Specific Language Impairment. Nowadays it is still not defined positively, which means it isn’t defined with any particular regard to the exact nature of the impairment itself, but to the exclusion of other symptoms (cf. Dannenbauer 2003): the affected child shows no hearing loss/ impairment, no bilingualism, no emotional disorders, no mental retardation or major neurological abnormalities (cf. Weerdenburg 2006). There hasn’t been established any reliable and objective diagnostic system for measuring such a kind of language delay so far. However, most researchers nowadays agree that SLI has to be seen as a heterogeneous, complex and dynamic language disorder. Despite of various researches done so far, a complete classification of the different types of the heterogeneous language problems found in children with SLI is still lacking. Additionally, no agreement about the clinical markers of SLI has been reached so far.


Excerpt out of 12 pages


Children with Specific Language Impairment
University of Cologne
Second Language Learning Theories
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
402 KB
Children, Specific, Language, Impairment, Second, Language, Learning, Theories
Quote paper
Caroline Lorig (Author), 2007, Children with Specific Language Impairment , Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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