The morphosyntactic development of children with a cochlear implant. A comparison with children using hearing aids, normally hearing children and children with SLI.
01 / 2005 - 12 / 2009
Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (NWO)
Cochlear implants (CI), electronic devices which replace the cochlear function via electrical stimulation of the auditory nerve, have recently been implanted in very young infants, i.e. below 6 months of age. Current research indicates that implantation which occurs before the onset of language development typically triggers an improvement in the child's speech perception and production. Far less is known about the effect of cochlear implantation on the morphosyntactic development of these children. This is precisely the topic of the present research project: the morphosyntactic development of young children with CIs will be compared to 3 other groups: hearing impaired (HI) children who wear conventional H(earing)A(ids), children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI) and a control group of hearing children with a normal language development. In particular, the (dis)similarities in the acquisition pattern of functional categories in the nominal, as well as the verbal domain will be investigated. We adopt Locke's (1997) developmental theory of language according to which the analytical stage of language acquisition is activated by a stage in which lexical material is collected. Children who are delayed in this lexical acquisition stage will be unable to store sufficient lexical items within the appropriate time window in order to activate their analytical mechanism. It is predicted that fewer sensory exposure or fewer effective exposure during a particular stage of language development results in temporary or permanent processing deficits. The sub-projects focus on two particular aspects of morphosyntax: (i) the acquisition of determiners, and (ii) the acquisition of tense. Both qualify as ideal case-studies in this respect: for CI- (and HI-) children, determiners, as well as tense morphemes, have been defined as non-salient elements that can be easily missed in incoming speech; for SLI-children, they might serve as clinical grammatical markers. The analysis is based on natural production data from a homogenous population of 10 monolingual Dutch-speaking CI-children who suffer from severe congenital hearing loss and are implanted before the age of 2.