Publication Details

Kunnari, S., Savinainen-Makkonen, T., Leonard, L. B., Makinen, L., Tolonen, A., Luotonen, M. & Leinonen, E. (2011). Children with specific language impairment in Finnish: the use of tense and agreement inflections. Journal of Child Language, 38 (5), 999-1027.


Children with specific language impairment (SLI) vary widely in their ability to use tense/agreement inflections depending on the type of language being acquired, a fact that current accounts of SLI have tried to explain. Finnish provides an important test case for these accounts because: (1) verbs in the first and second person permit null subjects whereas verbs in the third person do not; and (2) tense and agreement inflections are agglutinating and thus one type of inflection can appear without the other. Probes were used to compare the verb inflection use of Finnish-speaking children with SLI, and both age-matched and younger typically developing children. The children with SLI were less accurate, and the pattern of their errors did not match predictions based on current accounts of SLI. It appears that children with SLI have difficulty learning complex verb inflection paradigms apart from any problem specific to tense and agreement.



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