Although receptive language deficits are commonly identified during the later school years and in adulthood, such deficits are less readily identified during the preschool years. This may be due to the difficulty of measuring receptive language at ages where performance expectations are low, and to the use of methods for which contextual support is high. As a result, we know little about the frequency or nature of receptive language deficits at young ages. Furthermore, when errors occur, clinical assessment often provides little insight into the underlying source of the problem. In this grant, we adopt a theoretical framework that has identified specific abilities that facilitate rapid implicit learning and generalization by individuals with typical language skills. We apply this framework to understand children and adults with two conditions associated with poor language skills (i.e., specific language impairment, language learning disability). Tasks that explore learning and generalization using artificial language allow control of the multiple sources of information available in natural language stimuli. This permits examination of specific skills, perceptual abilities, and cognitive capacities that could underlie receptive language deficits, when they occur. In the previous cycle of this grant, we demonstrated that children and adults who were selected for poor language skills had difficulty using visual, auditory, and distributional cues to accomplish language-relevant learning tasks. Findings across studies suggest the use of a memorization strategy for learning by those with poor language skills. This strategy results in relative strengths for some language processing tasks but may inhibit generalization in other tasks. In this grant proposal, we build on the work previously completed to determine whether cues to language structure that were not previously studied assist learning and generalization. In addition, we test whether manipulations that should affect memory also affect learning and generalization for those with poor language skills. We concentrate our efforts on phenomena related to language form (i.e., artificial language learning tasks that parallel word identification, morphology and syntactic learning in English). This work seeks to improve early identification of receptive language deficits and to illuminate their nature. Furthermore, the work will identify conditions that produce rapid, measurable learning and specify ways in which language processing can be facilitated (or hindered). Therefore, this research will provide a context for the development of improved intervention methods.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Research Project (R01)
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Study Section
Language and Communication Study Section (LCOM)
Program Officer
Cooper, Judith
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University of Arizona
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Plante, Elena; Ogilvie, Trianna; Vance, Rebecca et al. (2014) Variability in the language input to children enhances learning in a treatment context. Am J Speech Lang Pathol 23:530-45
Plante, Elena; Vance, Rebecca; Moody, Amanda et al. (2013) What influences children's conceptualizations of language input? J Speech Lang Hear Res 56:1613-24
Dailey, Natalie S; Plante, Elena; Vance, Rebecca (2013) Talker discrimination in preschool children with and without specific language impairment. J Commun Disord 46:330-7
von Koss Torkildsen, Janne; Dailey, Natalie S; Aguilar, Jessica M et al. (2013) Exemplar variability facilitates rapid learning of an otherwise unlearnable grammar by individuals with language-based learning disability. J Speech Lang Hear Res 56:618-29
Plante, Elena; Bahl, Megha; Vance, Rebecca et al. (2011) Beyond phonotactic frequency: presentation frequency effects word productions in specific language impairment. J Commun Disord 44:91-102
Plante, Elena; Bahl, Megha; Vance, Rebecca et al. (2010) Children with specific language impairment show rapid, implicit learning of stress assignment rules. J Commun Disord 43:397-406
Kittleson, Megan M; Aguilar, Jessica M; Tokerud, Gry Line et al. (2010) Implicit language learning: Adults' ability to segment words in Norwegian. Biling (Camb Engl) 13:513-523
Bahl, Megha; Plante, Elena; Gerken, LouAnn (2009) Processing prosodic structure by adults with language-based learning disability. J Commun Disord 42:313-23
Greenslade, Kathryn J; Plante, Elena; Vance, Rebecca (2009) The diagnostic accuracy and construct validity of the structured photographic expressive language test--preschool: second edition. Lang Speech Hear Serv Sch 40:150-60
Alt, Mary; Gutmann, Michelle L (2009) Fast mapping semantic features: performance of adults with normal language, history of disorders of spoken and written language, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder on a word-learning task. J Commun Disord 42:347-64

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