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Intonation Abilities of Children with Speech and Language Impairments

By Bill Wells and Sue JE Peppé


Intonation has been little studied in children with speech and language impairments, although deficits in related aspects of prosody have been hypothesized to underlie specific language impairment. In this study a new intonation battery, the Profiling Elements of Prosodic Systems-Child version (PEPS-C), was administered to 18 children with speech and/or language impairments (LI). PEPS-C comprises 16 tasks (8 x 8, Input x Output) tapping phonetic and functional aspects of intonation in four areas: grammar, affect, interaction, and pragmatics. Scores were compared to a chronological age (CA) matched group of 28 children and a group of 18 children matched for language comprehension (LC). Measures of language comprehension, expressive language, nonverbal intelligence, and segmental phonology were also taken. The LI group did not score significantly below the LC group on any PEPS-C task. On 5 of 16 tasks, the LI group scored significantly lower than the CA group. In the LI group, there were just 2 significant correlations between a PEPS-C task and 1 of the nonprosodic measures. The results support the view that intonation is relatively discrete from other levels of speech and language while suggesting some specific areas of possible vulnerability: auditory memory for longer prosodic strings and the use of prosody for pragmatic/interactional purposes

Publisher: American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
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