Comprehension of inferential meaning in language-impaired and language normal children
Three groups of language-normal (LN) 6, 8 and 16/17 year olds, and a group of language-impaired (LI) children were given a task answering questions about pictures that involved inferential meaning. A developmental progression in the types of responses given is seen, with the LI children performing like the youngest LN children. A similar progression is seen in the ability to justify the answers given to inferential questions with the young adult group giving the fewest justifications that were problematical in some way. Larger numbers of problematical justifications in the LI group can be related to some extent to non-pragmatic aspects of their impairment, but overall this group also gave more pragmatically irrelevant responses when asked to justify answers given. It was not possible to identify any major differences between subgroups of children within the LI group, identified as pragmatically impaired (PI) and non pragmatically impaired (NPI), in terms of either answers given to inferential questions or in terms of problematical justifications for these answers. Possible reasons for these findings are discussed.