Project: Research project


The purpose of this project is to investigate the development of language
comprehension in mildly mentally retarded and normally developing
children. Language comprehension involves the selection and coordinated
use of cognitive, social, and linguistic skills in a goal-direct manner and
may be especially problematic for retarded individuals. The studies
planned are conceptualized within the Bach and Harnish (1979) model of
comprehension. In this model, the goal of comprehension is to identify the
communicative intent, or speech act, conveyed. The speech act includes the
intended referents and communicative functions (e.g., assertion, question,
promise). Successful speech act comprehension requires more than knowledge
of linguistic concepts and rules. The hearer must also make inferences
based on appropriate information from the communicative context. Only
contextual information mutually shared by speaker and hearer is
appropriate. Distinguishing mutually shared information from nonmutual
information (i.e., data possessed only the the hearer) requires
sophisticated perspective taking skills (i.e., the hearer must evaluate the
speaker's knowledge). The ability of retarded and nonretarded children, as
hearers, to (a) draw inferences based on the utterance and context and (b)
distinguish mutual from nonmutual information in order to identify intended
referents and communicative functions will be investigated. In the studies
planned, the independent variables will represent variations in contextual
information which impose different interpretations on the sentences heard.
The contextual variables will include the speaker's goals and the physical
properties of the objects referred to. Both mutual and nonmutual
information will be available to the hearer in some studies. Contextual
information will be varied within subjects. The involvement of perspective
taking in comprehension will be explored. The subjects will be retarded
and nonretarded children at each of three MA levels: 5, 7 and 9.
Retarded-nonretarded comparisons will involve groups matched on nonverbal
MA and linguistic maturity. Within the retarded and non-retarded levels,
IQ's will be equivalent across the different developmental levels. The
studies will be conducted according to a repeated measures factorial
design. Results will be analyzed by analyses of variance, simple effects
tests, and Newman-Keuls comparisons to identify differences across subject
groups and experimental conditions. t tests will be used to determine if
performance differs from hypothesized standards.
Effective start/end date1/1/8512/31/87


  • National Institutes of Health
  • National Institutes of Health
  • National Institutes of Health


speech act


  • Medicine(all)