Deficits in explicit language problem solving rather than in implicit learning in specific language impairment: Evidence from learning an artificial morphological rule

Sara Ferman, Liat Kishon-Rabin, Hila Ganot-Budaga, Avi Karni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to delineate differences between children with specific language impairment (SLI), typical age–matched (TAM) children, and typical younger (TY) children in learning and mastering an undisclosed artificial morphological rule (AMR) through exposure and usage. Method: Twenty-six participants (eight 10-year-old children with SLI, 8 TAM children, and ten 8-year-old TY children) were trained to master an AMR across multiple training sessions. The AMR required a phonological transformation of verbs depending on a semantic distinction: whether the preceding noun was animate or inanimate. All participants practiced the application of the AMR to repeated and new (generalization) items, via judgment and production tasks. Results: The children with SLI derived significantly less benefit from practice than their peers in learning most aspects of the AMR, even exhibiting smaller gains compared to the TY group in some aspects. Children with SLI benefited less than TAM and even TY children from training to judge and produce repeated items of the AMR. Nevertheless, despite a significant disadvantage in baseline performance, the rate at which they mastered the task-specific phonological regularities was as robust as that of their peers. On the other hand, like 8-year-olds, only half of the SLI group succeeded in uncovering the nature of the AMR and, consequently, in generalizing it to new items. Conclusions: Children with SLI were able to learn language aspects that rely on implicit, procedural learning, but experienced difficulties in learning aspects that relied on the explicit uncovering of the semantic principle of the AMR. The results suggest that some of the difficulties experienced by children with SLI when learning a complex language regularity cannot be accounted for by a broad, language-related, procedural memory disability. Rather, a deficit— perhaps a developmental delay in the ability to recruit and solve language problems and establish explicit knowledge regarding a language task—can better explain their difficulties in language learning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3790-3807
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Volume62
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Ministry of Health, Israel, under Grant 3-5158, awarded to Liat Kishon-Rabin and Sara Ferman.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Deficits in explicit language problem solving rather than in implicit learning in specific language impairment: Evidence from learning an artificial morphological rule'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this