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Move & Merge: Colloquium in Language Development

【 Time:2019-11-18 】

Move & Merge: Colloquium in Language Development

Title:Move & Merge: Colloquium in Language Development

SpeakerEmily Stanford, PhD candidate at the University of Geneva

Time2019-11-18  16:00-18:00   (Monday)

LocationBeijing Language and Culture University, Adm Building, 329

OrganizerDepartment of Linguistics of BLCU


It has been suggested that the syntactic deficits of children with developmental language disorder (DLD) and children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are the result of an interaction between complex syntactic properties and grammar-independent constraints, i.e. limited working memory (WM) and/or attentional capacity (Gillam et al., 2009; Jakubowicz, 2011). Research supports this claim, with several studies confirming a link between the development of such cognitive functions and the emergence of complex syntax in these populations (for DLD see Delage & Frauenfelder, in press; Frizelle & Fletcher, 2014; Im-Bolter et al., 2006; Montgomery & Evans, 2009; for ASD see Durrleman & Delage, 2016; Schuh & Eigsti, 2012). Additionally, there is some evidence that children with known deficits in WM and attention, in particular children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), present markers of language impairment similar to those found in DLD, further backing the argument that difficulties in general cognitive processes may play a causal role in language dysfunction.
In this talk I will present two studies using data from French-speaking children aged 6 to 12: (i) a study (Stanford et al., 2019; Delage et al., in prep) that examined the expressive syntax of children with DLD and ASD prior to and following an intensive 8-week WM training program that targeted the components of WM shown to be related to the mastery of certain complex structures in these populations (Delage & Frauenfelder, in press), and (ii) a study (Stanford & Delage, in prep) that used a cross-sectional paradigm and a priming paradigm to compare the syntactic performance of children with DLD to that of children with ADHD. I will discuss the findings that our WM training program led to gains in skills that were not trained, i.e. syntax, and that ADHD and DLD can be distinguished when clinical markers of DLD are used to assess syntax. The potential theoretical and clinical implications of these results will be discussed.