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Languages 2018, 3(2), 17; https://doi.org/10.3390/languages3020017

Null Subject Occurrence in Monolingual Spanish SLI: A Discriminant Function Analysis

1
Department of Spanish and Portuguese, The Ohio State University, 298 Hagerty Hall, 1775 College Road, Columbus, OH 43210, USA
2
Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, The Ohio State University, 1070 Carmack Road, 110 Pressey Hall, Columbus, OH 43210, USA
3
School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH8 9YL, UK
4
Facultad de Lenguas y Letras, Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro, Cerro de las Campanas, Centro Universitario, 76010 Santiago de Querétaro, Mexico
5
Departament de Filologia Catalana, Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Campus UAB, Plaça Cívica, Bellaterra, 08193 Barcelona, Spain
6
Instituto Nacional de Rehabilitación, Calz México-Xochimilco 289, Arenal Tepepan, 14389 Ciudad de México, Mexico
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 14 November 2017 / Revised: 10 May 2018 / Accepted: 17 May 2018 / Published: 23 May 2018
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Abstract

Background: Child Spanish-speakers appear to use more null subjects than do adults. Null subject use, like the use of tense marking, is sensitive to discourse-pragmatics. Because tense marking has been used to identify child Spanish-speakers with specific language impairment (SLI) with near good sensitivity and specificity (89%), null subject use may as well, following the predictions of the Interface Deficit Hypothesis. We investigate the possibility that null subject occurrence may form part of a useful discriminant function for the identification of monolingual child Spanish-speakers diagnosed with specific language impairment. Methods: We evaluate the rate of null subject expression from spontaneous production data, together with results from independent measures of another discourse-sensitive construction, verb finiteness, in child Spanish. We perform a discriminant function analysis, using null subject expression as a target variable, among others, to classify monolingual child Spanish-speakers (N = 40) as SLI or as typically-developing (TD). Results: The SLI group is shown to have significantly higher scores than the TD group on null subject expression. Multiple discriminant functions, including the null subject variable with tense measures, and in combination with mean length of utterance in words (MLUw), are shown to provide good sensitivity and specificity (<90%) in the classification of children as SLI vs. TD. Conclusion: Our findings support the contention that null subject occurrence is a plausible reflection of the Interface Deficit of SLI for Spanish-speaking children. View Full-Text
Keywords: Spanish; null subjects; SLI; Interface Deficit; Interface Delay; discriminant function analysis Spanish; null subjects; SLI; Interface Deficit; Interface Delay; discriminant function analysis
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Grinstead, J.; Lintz, P.; Pratt, A.; Vega-Mendoza, M.; De la Mora, J.; Cantú-Sánchez, M.; Flores-Avalos, B. Null Subject Occurrence in Monolingual Spanish SLI: A Discriminant Function Analysis. Languages 2018, 3, 17.

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