The use of sophisticated words with children with specific language impairment during shared book reading

The use of sophisticated words with children with specific language impairment during shared book reading

Journal of Communication Disorders 53 (2015) 1–16 Contents lists available at ScienceDirect Journal of Communication Disorders The use of sophistic...

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Journal of Communication Disorders 53 (2015) 1–16

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

Journal of Communication Disorders

The use of sophisticated words with children with specific language impairment during shared book reading Marinella Majorano *, Manuela Lavelli University of Verona, Italy

A R T I C L E I N F O

A B S T R A C T

Article history: Received 13 January 2014 Received in revised form 3 October 2014 Accepted 24 October 2014 Available online 5 November 2014

In the context of the use of sophisticated (i.e., low-frequency) words with children with specific language impairment (SLI), the present study investigates the relationship between maternal interactive support for meaning and both conversational responsiveness and lexical development of children with SLI. Fifteen Italian-speaking children with SLI (age range: 3;4–5;6) and two groups of typically developing children – 15 chronological age (CA)-matched (3;8–5;8) and 15 language age (LA)-matched (1;10– 3;5) – were videotaped during shared book reading with their mothers. Maternal utterances which included or were related to a sophisticated word were coded on the basis of informativeness and scaffolding provided; child utterances were coded for complexity. In addition, child’s lexical development was assessed three months later. Mothers of children with SLI produced a higher percentage of directly informative utterances with gestural scaffolding than did mothers of CA-matched children, and only in the SLI group this kind of utterances were significantly followed by child’s extended utterances. Child’s lexical development (production) was related to direct maternal informativeness in both the SLI- and CA-matched groups, and to gestural scaffolding only in the SLI group. On the whole, these findings suggest that mothers of children with SLI attune their language to their children’s linguistic limitations and that the gestural quality of the interactive scaffolding is related to these children’s conversational participation and their level of lexical progress. Learning outcomes: The reader will recognize the importance of maternal support for the meaning of low-frequency words in promoting the child’s conversational responsiveness and lexical development, particularly with children with SLI. These children seem to benefit when provided with direct information accompanied by gestural scaffolding. These findings, if replicated with a larger group of participants, could help clinicians develop improved strategies for teaching parents. ß 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Specific language impairment Maternal support for meaning Lexical sophistication

1. Introduction In recent years, increasing attention has been paid to children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI), that is children with deficits in one or more area of language development (phonological, lexical-semantics, morpho-syntax, pragmatics)

* Corresponding author at: Developmental Psychology, Department of Philosophy, Education and Psychology, University of Verona, Via San Francesco, 22, 37129 Verona, Italy. Tel.: +39 0458028039. E-mail address: [email protected] (M. Majorano). http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jcomdis.2014.10.001 0021-9924/ß 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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that is unexplained by their cognitive, neurological and sensory-motor development and where the socio-communicative context is adequate (see Leonard, 2014 for a review). Many studies have indicated a large variability in patterns of language acquisition in this population: children with SLI display deficits in one or more specific areas of language, especially phonology (e.g., Claessen & Leitao, 2012) and morphosyntax (e.g., Jones & Conti-Ramsden, 1997; Rice, Wexler, & Hershberger, 1998), while the presence of a lexical deficit remains unclear (Bishop, 1997; Storkel, 2011). For example, experimental studies on word learning by Gray and colleagues (Gray & Brinkley, 2011; Gray, Brinkley & Svetina, 2012; Gray, 2004, 2005) have found high variability among children with SLI and have shown that the word learning process is influenced in a similar way by phonotactic probability and object familiarity in both children with SLI and typically developing (TD) children (Gray & Brinkley, 2011; Gray et al., 2012). In addition, there was no difference between children with SLI and their TD peers in terms of the influence of the encoding cues (semantic or phonological), presented on their fast mapping and word learning performance (Gray & Brinkley, 2011). Studies on lexical categories did not find any difference between children with SLI and language-matched TD children on verb tokens or types, although children with SLI produced a lower number of different words compared with an age-matched control group of TD children (Leonard, Miller, & Gerber, 1999; Owen & Leonard, 2002; Stokes & Fletcher, 2000; Watkins, Kelly, Harbers, & Hollis, 1995). In contrast, other studies have indicated that these children need a higher degree of exposure to learn words (Ellis Weismer & Hesketh, 1998; Gray, 2003, 2004; Rice, Oetting, Marquis, Bode, & Pae, 1994) and use lower percentages of verb types and tokens (except for general all-purpose verbs) and higher percentages of noun types and tokens than a group of MLU-matched TD children (ContiRamsden & Jones, 1997). In addition, some experimental studies reported difficulties in comprehension and production of target words (Dollaghan, 1987; Rice, Buhr, & Nemeth, 1990; Rice, Buhr, & Oetting, 1992). Specifically, children with SLI are reported to have difficulty in learning the semantics of a new word (Alt & Plante, 2006; MacGregor & Appel, 2002; MainelaArnold, Evans, & Coady, 2010; Majorano, Benelli, Belacchi, & Gini, 2006; McGregor, Newman, Reilly, & Capone, 2002), to produce a higher number of phonological errors compared with age-matched and language-matched control groups (Aguilar-Mediavilla, Sanz-Torret, & Serra-Raventos, 2002; Lahey & Edwards, 1999; Majorano & Lavelli, 2014), and to be slower at recognizing and naming pictures (Bishop, 1997; Lahey & Edwards, 1996). Word finding difficulties (WFD), that is the inability to retrieve a word even with full knowledge of its meaning (Dockrell, Messer, George, & Wilson, 1998; German, 1989) has also been reported in children with SLI, both for single words and in discourse retrieval contexts (Brackenbury & Pye, 2005; Kail & Leonard, 1986; Kail, Hale, Leonard, & Nippold, 1984; Messer & Dockrell, 2006). The factors that account for this great variability in lexical development are debated in the literature. On the one hand, it has been suggested that individual linguistic or general-domain aspects (e.g., linguistic representation, Rice & Wexler, 1996; processing capacity, Leonard, 2014; or phonological memory, Gathercole & Baddeley, 1990; Sheng & McGregor, 2010; see Marinis, 2011 for a review) account for the lower ability to acquire and use new words in children with SLI. On the other hand, from an interactionist perspective on language development (see Chapman, 2000 for a review), a bi-directional influence between individual factors and input characteristics represents the key not only to a better understanding of how children with SLI represent and use language, but also to investigating how the context could help to facilitate lexical acquisition. In this regard, research on TD children has indicated that one of the most important sources of individual differences in language acquisition is a child’s exposure to language input in its different components (phonological, lexical, morfo-syntacts and pragmatic) (Chapman, 2000; Tomasello, 2006). As reported by Hoff and Naigles (2002), two complementary approaches have investigated the role of input in language learning. The first has focused on the social-pragmatic aspects of the input (Akhtar & Tomasello, 2000; Baldwin, 2000; Bloom, 2000; Bruner, 1974/1975; Hoff-Ginsberg, 1987; Tamis-LeMonda, Bornstein, Baumwell, & Damast, 1996; Tomasello, 1990, 2000), and has indicated that child language development is influenced by a complex set of relationships among several variables (from the context, from the adult, and from the child) (Bornstein, Haynes & Painter, 1998; Chapman, 2000; Ninio & Snow, 1988). Specifically, several interactive settings such as shared book reading and routine games were showed to influence lexical acquisition (e.g., Duursma & Pan, 2011; Majorano, Rainieri & Corsano, 2013; Ninio, 1983; Raikes et al., 2006; Whitehurst & Lonigan, 2001). Many studies stressed that these interactions provide the young child with a predictable referential context that makes both the child’s and the mother’s language immediately meaningful (Tomasello & Farrar, 1986) and represent richer opportunities for verbal interaction than other settings such as dressing and mealtimes (Hoff-Ginsberg, 1991). According to this view, word learning is derived from the child’s inference about the speaker’s attentional focus and communicative intent during routine and jointly engaged conversations (Akhtar & Tomasello, 2000; Baldwin, 2000). The second perspective – the so called ‘‘data providing view of input’’ (Hoff & Naigles, 2002, p. 422) – posits that children learn words by deriving information from the conversation as data, and shows evidence of the importance of the ‘‘nature’’ of input with its distinctive qualitative aspects in vocabulary development. Specifically, one line of research focused on the characteristics of maternal child-directed speech: for example, the number of isolated words (Brent & Siskind, 2001), the salience of the input due to the sentence position of verbal forms (Wijnen, Kempen, & Gillis, 2001) and prosodic characteristics (D’Odorico e Jacob, 2006; Ma, Golinkoff, Houston, & Hirsh-Pasek, 2011), and the occurrences of sophisticated lexical items (Beals, 1997; Weizman & Snow, 2001). In this regard, some studies supported the idea that preschoolers’ vocabulary ability is associated with their exposure to low-frequency vocabulary during adult-child interactions and conversations (Beals & Tabors, 1995; Beals, 1997; Weizman & Snow, 2001). Specifically, Weizman & Snow (2001), using both structural and functional analysis of the input, found that the density with which low-frequency words (which the authors termed ‘‘sophisticated words’’) are produced during supportive interaction at age 5 are related with the children’s vocabulary ability at kindergarten and 2nd grade. Similarly, Beals (1997) indicated that semantic support is the strategy

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most used by adults when a rare word is used and the frequency of low-frequency words is associated with lexical comprehension development at age 5 and 7. Focusing on children with SLI, some authors have shown that both the qualitative and quantitative aspects of conversations between mothers and their children with SLI differ from those observed in conversations between mothers and their TD children. Classical observational studies have shown that mothers of children with SLI provide fewer conversational recasts and use more directive utterances than mothers of TD children at similar language levels (ContiRamsden, 1990; Kaderavek & Sulzby, 1998; McTear & Conti-Ramsden, 1992), and require nonverbal and minimal verbal responses from their children (Crowe, 2000). These differences were explained by some authors as the parents’ reactions in response to their children’s verbal behavior (e.g., phonological and grammatical errors, absent reply, unintelligible utterances, fewer initiatives). In contrast, other studies have indicated that mothers of children with SLI adjust their language in response to their children’s linguistic limitations, as mothers of younger TD children do (Pellegrini, McGilicuddy, DeLisi, Sigel, & Brody, 1986; van Kleeck & Vander Woude, 2003; Vander Woude & Barton, 2001). Moreover, children with SLI seem to be more sensitive than TD children to their mothers’ emotional and instructional engagement during interaction, and they become more active conversational partners when mothers furnish emotional and linguistic support (Camarata & Nelson, 1992; Skibbe, Moody, Justice, & McGinty, 2010; Vander Woude & Barton, 2001). This greater sensitivity to the external properties of language was also highlighted by a small number of studies on the structural aspects of input to children with SLI (Conti-Ramsden & Jones, 1997; Leonard et al., 1982; Riches, Faragher, & Conti-Ramsden, 2006; Stokes & Fletcher, 2000). Some authors reported that children with SLI preferred to ‘‘anchor’’ their speech to these external input properties during conversation, limiting their use of general linguistic (syntactic) rules (Conti-Ramsden & Jones, 1997; Riches et al., 2006). Further support for this second line of research has been provided by previous studies (Barachetti & Lavelli, 2011; Lavelli, Barachetti, & Florit, in press; Majorano & Lavelli, 2014) conducted with some of the participants in the present study. In particular, various aspects of maternal input were investigated using observations of shared book reading, comparing preschoolers with SLI with two groups of typically developing children, age-matched and language-matched. The findings showed that mothers of children with SLI adapted their communication and ‘‘tuned’’ their language to their children’s language limitations both for pragmatic aspects of their language (e.g., producing a high frequency of supportive repairs, Barachetti & Lavelli, 2011, and of bimodal utterances, Lavelli et al., in press) and structural aspects (e.g., displaying a reduced distance between mother’s and child’s phonological, lexical and morpho-syntactic indices, Majorano & Lavelli, 2014). Although these studies have shown the presence of maternal support for children with SLI, and the role of maternal sophisticated lexicon has been studied in relation to lexical development in TD children (Weizman & Snow, 2001), no study has so far assessed mothers’ lexical sophistication in the SLI population. The present study aims to investigate the relationship between mothers’ lexical sophistication – and the related interactive support for meaning – and both conversational responsiveness and the lexical development of children with SLI. Since lexical sophistication is an important aspect of child language development (cfr. Weizman & Snow, 2001) and since children with SLI display specific difficulties in different aspects of word learning (cfr. Messer & Dockrell, 2006), an investigation of maternal support for the meaning of low-frequency words could help us clarify the role of social-pragmatic factors for supporting lexical acquisition. In addition, this study could add information to previous findings on maternal support for and tuning with children with SLI, but specifically on sophisticated lexicon. According to the interactive support hypothesis (Weizman & Snow, 2001), maternal conversational support for meaning associated with the use of sophisticated words would have a positive effect on child lexical development. Specifically, in the present study the relationship between maternal conversational support surrounding sophisticated words and linguistic production of children with SLI has been assessed using both a ‘‘synchronic’’ perspective (assessing the bi-directional influence between maternal and child utterances during conversation) and a ‘‘diachronic’’ perspective (assessing the relationship between maternal input and child’s lexical development three months later). Our specific aims and hypotheses are the following: 1. To compare maternal lexical sophistication and related support for meaning (informativeness and scaffolding) addressed to children with SLI (SLI group) with the same factors as addressed to TD children matched to the first group by chronological age (CA-matched group) and by linguistic age (LA-matched group). Given the linguistic limitations of the children with SLI, their mothers are expected to display more support for meaning of sophisticated words during conversation than mothers of TD peers, but not necessarily than mothers of language-matched younger children. 2. To assess the potential effect of maternal support for meaning on the child’s conversational responsiveness, by examining possible real-time relationships between the different kinds of maternal and child utterances during conversation. Maternal informative and scaffolding utterances are expected to help children to increase their linguistic participation, extending their turns during conversation and/or increasing their linguistic initiatives. Specifically, maternal supportive interactions surrounding sophisticated words are expected to be associated with more complex answers by the child, especially in the group of children with SLI, which should be more sensitive to external support (Jones & Conti-Ramsden, 1997; Mainela-Arnold et al., 2010). 3. To assess the relationship between maternal input (lexical sophistication, informativeness, scaffolding) and child language development (lexical production) as measured using a standardized test three months later. Informativeness and scaffolding are expected to be associated with more advanced lexical development (interactive support hypothesis, Weizman & Snow, 2001).

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2. Method 2.1. Participants This study is part of a wider research project (PRIN-prot.2008J2WEEK_002 ‘‘Gestures and words in shared picture-book reading with preschoolers with specific language impairment: Analysing parent-child interaction to promote effective conversational strategies’’) mainly funded by the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research. Three groups of children and their mothers participated in the study: a group of 15 children with SLI and two control groups of TD children individually matched by chronological age (CA-matched group, N = 15) and by language abilities (LA-matched group, N = 15). These participants partially overlap with participants in previous studies included in the research project, as explained in the following detailed descriptions. The first group was comprised of 15 children (10 males and 5 females) with expressive SLI aged between 3;4 and 5;6 years (mean age 4;8). Four of these 15 children participated in a previous study (Majorano & Lavelli, 2014) which focused on maternal linguistic tuning with their children’s language production. The other children previously observed were not included in the current study because they had not been tested with specific standardized instruments that we had planned to use in this study. However, all children with SLI were identified through departments of Child Neuropsychiatry located in the northeastern provinces of Italy and referred for participation in the study by certified speech-language therapists. The professionals used standardized tests along with their clinical judgment for the classification. Specifically, the test used for all participants was the TVL, Test di Valutazione del Linguaggio – Livello prescolare’’ (Linguistic Evaluation Test – Preschool level, Cianchetti & Sannio Fancello, 1997). The test is designed to investigate language development in preschool children from 30 to 71 months and consists of 8 subtests, 2 for assessing language comprehension (word comprehension, and sentence comprehension) and 6 for assessing language production (repetition of sentences of increasing length, naming – that is expressive – vocabulary, spontaneous production on suggested topics to check phonological correctness and morphosyntactical correctness, sentence and narrative construction. The children with expressive SLI met the following criteria: (a) Expressive language ability more than 1 SD below the normative mean on at least two subtests of language production of the TVL (Cianchetti & Sannio Fancello, 1997). (b) Receptive language ability within 1 SD from the mean on the word and sentence comprehension subtests of the TVL (Cianchetti & Sannio Fancello, 1997). (c) Nonverbal IQs of above 85, as assessed by the Italian standardization of the Weschler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (Wechsler, 1969). (d) No evidence of sensory-neural hearing loss, neurological or genetic syndromes, or physical or behavioral impairments.

Children with expressive-only SLI were selected from the whole group of children with SLI diagnosed in clinical departments, in order to limit the qualitative differences of the impairments within the group. In addition, children with expressive SLI exhibit less severe linguistic limitations than children with expressive and receptive SLI do, so they are able to participate for a longer period in a shared reading conversation. Of all the families with a child with expressive-only SLI identified by speech-language therapists, 75% consented to participate in the research. According to the diagnosis provided by the therapists, 9 of the recruited children exhibited moderate expressive language deficits and 6 of them exhibited severe extended expressive language deficits. At the time of their participation in the study, 12 of the 15 children with expressive SLI had just started attending weekly support meetings with speech-language therapists; the other 3 children were waiting to begin a program. Since for most of the children the program had just started, the mothers had not yet been instructed about effective communication strategies to use with their children. The second group (CA-matched) comprised 15 TD peers (8 males and 7 females) aged from 3;8 to 5;8 years, with a mean age of 4;9. As for the group of children with SLI, 4 of these 15 children had participated in the previously mentioned study (Majorano & Lavelli, 2014). The other children previously observed were not included because they had not received the assessment that we had planned to use in this study. There was no difference in the independent sample t-test between the CA-matched group and the SLI-group in age [t(28) = .72; p = .47]. In order to exclude the presence of any linguistic impairment in the CA-matched group, the language abilities of the age-matched children were evaluated by the sentence comprehension and the ‘‘spontaneous production’’ subtests of the TVL (Cianchetti & Sannio Fancello, 1997). All the children showed abilities within 1 SD from the normative mean in all these subtests of language production and comprehension. The third group (LA-matched) included 15 typically developing children (8 males and 7 females) matched by MLU in word and lexical production (tokens) to the SLI-group (see the Procedure section). Thirteen of these 15 children had participated in the previously mentioned study (Majorano & Lavelli, 2014); only one child from that study was not included in the present study, because he did not fit the language matching with children with SLI. In addition, 10 of the13 children already engaged had been recruited in another, earlier work (Barachetti & Lavelli, 2011), which focused on maternal repairs addressed to children with SLI and TD. The LA-matched children ranged in age from 1;10 to 3;5 years, with a mean age of 2;6 years. In order to exclude the presence of any linguistic impairment in this control group, the language abilities of these younger LA-matched children were evaluated through the questionnaire ‘‘Primo Vocabolario del Bambino’’ (PVB) – Words and Sentences short form (Caselli, Pasqualetti, & Stefanini, 2007) – i.e., the Italian version of the McArthur-Bates

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Communicative Development Inventories (Fenson et al., 2006) – administered to the parents of these children. The scores obtained by all of the children in both lexical and grammatical abilities were close to or above the normative data. All typically developing children and their mothers were recruited through preschools and nurseries in the northeastern provinces of Italy. All mothers participating in this study were native Italian-speaking, ranging in age from 31 to 44 years (SLI group: M = 35.2, SD = 3.10; CA-matched group: M = 39.1, SD = 2.9; LA-matched group: M = 35.8, SD = 5.2). In the SLI group, 4 mothers were middle school educated, 8 were high school educated, and 3 were college graduates. In the CA-matched group, 1 mother was middle school educated, 9 were high school educated, and 5 were college graduates. In the LA-matched group, 3 mothers were middle school educated, 8 mothers were high school educated, and 4 were college graduates. No significant differences emerged in maternal years of education between the SLI group (M = 12.20, SD = 2.95) and the compared CAmatched group (M = 13.40, SD = 2.26), t(28) = 1.24, p = .22, and LA-matched group (M = 12.80, SD = 2.96), t(28) = .55, p = .58. In all three groups the mothers routinely read to their children (from once a week to once a day), as documented by the mothers’ interviews. No significant differences emerged for frequency of shared book reading at home between the SLI group (M = 4.80 times a week; SD = 2.59) and the comparison CA-matched group (M = 4.53; SD = 2.32), t(28) = .30, p = .77, and LA-matched group (M = 5.01; SD = 2.53), t(28) = .23; p = .82. Each family gave their informed consent to participating in the research. The research project and the methods used are in line with the ethical guidelines of the AIP (Italian Association of Psychology). 2.2. Procedure 2.2.1. Preliminary free-play session Initially each dyad was observed during a free-play interactive session at their home. The mother was asked to play as she usually did with her child, with her choice of toys/objects. In order to match each child with SLI with one child of the LAmatched group, the MLU and tokens were calculated on 100 utterances. The mean MLU for children with SLI was 2.05 (SD = .43) and for the LA-matched 2.16 (SD = .76). The mean tokens per minute for children with SLI was 20.78 (SD = 8.63) and for the LA-matched 16.53 (SD = 8.29). There were no differences in the independent sample t-test between the LA-matched group and the SLI-group in the MLU [t(28) = .91; p = .37] and in the tokens produced per min [t(28) = 1.37; p = .18]. 2.2.2. Shared book reading session As mentioned above, these data form part of a wider research project. For the whole research project, each mother–child dyad was videotaped during at least two weekly observational sessions of shared book reading, at their home. The experimenter used a digital camera set on a tripod in order to be able to leave the dyad alone. Each mother was asked to read a specific book with her child in the usual way. For the present study, for each dyad we have considered only the first videotaped session because it was based on the sharing of the same descriptive book, The Animals, that was unfamiliar to the children. This book had illustrations and a brief descriptive text on each page. Six children younger than 30 months in the LAmatched group read a different version of the book (The Animals in the Farm), with same genre, content, and structure, but a simpler text. However, the two versions of the book display a similar number of low-frequency words in the text (The Animals in the Farm: n = 11; The Animals: n = 13) and depicted in the figures (The Animals in the Farm: n = 12; The Animals: n = 15). The average duration of the analyzed shared reading session was 14:57 min (range = 8:38–22:55) for the SLI-group, 13:13 min (range = 5:15–20:31) for the CA-matched group, and 10:46 min (range = 5:19–20:54) for the LA-matched group. No statistical differences emerged either between the SLI-group and the CA-matched group [t(28) = .98; p = .33], or between the SLI group and the LA-matched group [t(28) = 1.92; p = .06]. 2.2.3. Test for lexical development The naming subtest and the word comprehension subtest from the TVL (Cianchetti & Sannio Fancello, 1997) – that is, the subtest to assess lexical development in production and comprehension – were administered to each child approximately 3 months after the second session of shared book reading. The naming subtest consists of 40 items (10 body parts, 10 small objects, and 20 pictures of objects). The child is asked ‘‘What is this? What is its name?’’ The word comprehension subtest consists of 80 items (10 body parts, 10 objects, 20 pictures of objects, 10 colors, 10 pictures of objects according to their use, 20 adjectives). The child is asked ‘‘Show me . . ..’’ or ‘‘Touch the. . ..’’. Since the TVL can be used with children from 30 months of age, this instrument was administered only to children in the SLI-group and CA-matched group. Since all subtests of the TVL had already been used with children with SLI for the diagnosis, we checked – before using the naming and the word comprehension subtests from the same Test – that the interval between the two administrations was at least 6 months. 2.3. Transcription Each session was entirely transcribed in accordance with the guidelines produced by the Codes for Human Analysis of Transcript (CHAT), which is part of the Child Language Data Exchange System (CHILDES, MacWhinney, 2000). According to Cresti and Moneglia’s criterion (Cresti & Moneglia, 1997, 2010; Cresti, 2011), an utterance is the minimum unit for analysis that can practically be interpreted for the study of speech. According to Cresti and Moneglia (2010), prosody and/or pauses can be used to delimit the boundaries of an utterance within the speech flow (Cresti, 2011). In our case, since children with

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SLI might display more, and longer, silent pauses and vocal hesitations than TD children (Guo, Tomblin & Samelson, 2008; Snow, 1998), the criterion for utterances definition was prosodical. 2.4. Coding For each session, the following indices of language production were coded for both the mother and the child. 2.4.1. Mothers’ sophisticated vocabulary Firstly, the lexical characteristics of maternal input (total numbers of types and tokens) were analyzed, and sophisticated lexicon was identified. Specifically, a word was considered as ‘‘sophisticated’’ when its frequency of production in the Italian lexicon was lower than 10. This index is obtained from a corpus of 1,000,000 word tokens constructed by Marconi and colleagues (Marconi, Ott, Pesenti, Ratti, & Tavella, 1994), taken from texts read or written by children and is referred to as the ‘‘total corpus’’ index. For each mother, sophisticated vocabulary included both sophisticated words read from the book and sophisticated words that were introduced into the book-reading conversation spontaneously by the mother; sophisticated types and tokens were calculated (total number and density). Next each verbal interaction, that is, each sequence of mother–child conversational turns, related to a sophisticated word, was considered. Specifically, each target interaction began with a mother’s turn containing an utterance with a sophisticated word read or produced for the first time during that session; it included the subsequent conversational turns focused on the referent or the meaning of that sophisticated word. It ended when the child or the mother changed the topic of conversation, that is, specifically, with the turn immediately before the new conversational turn which was no longer related to the referent or the meaning of the sophisticated word. Only when an utterance with a new sophisticated word was an answer to a child’s initiative did the target sequence begin with the child’s turn. In some cases the sequences were composed of two or three utterances; in other cases the sequence represented an ‘‘extended discourse’’ (a part of a ‘‘narrative’’ or ‘‘explanatory discourse’’), defined as ‘‘a talk centered on a particular topic that extends over several utterances or conversational turns’’ (Snow & Beals, 2006, p. 54). 2.4.2. Mothers’ support for meaning of sophisticated words Adapting the coding system by Weizman and Snow (2001), the mothers’ utterances in verbal interactions related to sophisticated words (as defined above) were coded on the basis of their informativeness and the quality of the interactive scaffolding within which the information about a sophisticated word’s meaning was provided. Informativeness was coded into three categories: - directly informative (explicit information about the meaning or the linguistic function of a sophisticated word are provided by the mother); - indirectly informative (the information about the meaning or the linguistic function of a sophisticated word are provided implicitly, as if the word was supposed to be known by the child); - not informative (the mother uses a sophisticated word in monorematic structures). The quality of the interactive scaffolding was coded by adapting the original coding (Weizman & Snow, 2001) to the SLI population and to the context of shared book reading; three categories were used: - gestural scaffolding (the mother indicates the meaning of a sophisticated word by pointing to a picture in the book – i.e., by guiding the child’s attention to a referent – or by representing an action or an object through gestures); - verbal scaffolding (the mother elicits the child’s active participation in verbal interaction related to a sophisticated word through questions, repetition of the child’s utterances, paraphrasing, recasting, and supporting the child’s linguistic production with verbal and/or nonverbal prompts); - no interactive scaffolding (absence of any interactive scaffolding associated with the use of a sophisticated word). Combining informativeness and quality of interactive scaffolding, the following categories were used for coding those of the mothers’ utterances which included or were related to a sophisticated word (in bold in the examples): 1) directly informative with no interactive scaffolding; e.g.: *MOT: The killer whale is a fish. It’s a good fish, it’s not a bad one. *MOT: It’s not as bad as the shark. 2) indirectly informative with no interactive scaffolding; e.g.: *MOT: Hares are greedy for salad and carrots. 3) not informative with no interactive scaffolding; e.g.: *MOT: Koala. 4) directly informative with gestural scaffolding; e.g.: *MOT: This is the male sheep with long horns. (pointing at the picture)

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5) indirectly informative with gestural scaffolding; e.g.: *MOT: And this is daddy deer with its little deer. (pointing at the picture) 6) not informative with gestural scaffolding; e.g.: *MOT: This is an oyster. (pointing at the picture) 7) directly informative with verbal scaffolding; e.g.: *MOT: Look at the walrus! What big teeth it’s got! 8) indirectly informative with verbal scaffolding; e.g.: *MOT: How many humps has a dromedary got? 9) not informative with verbal scaffolding; e.g.: *MOT: And what are these . . .. . .? *MOT: Can you see? *MOT: Little hares are greedy for carrots and salad. *MOT: Do you like carrots? 10) other (any other maternal utterance included in verbal interaction surrounding a sophisticated word, but not related to the word; often a positive feedback or a close answer addressed to the child); e.g.: *MOT: good!

2.4.3. Measures of children’s conversation The utterances produced by children in verbal interactions surrounding sophisticated words were coded into four categories following Mannle, Barton, and Tomasello (1991): 1) Initiation (any provision of information or nonverbal action which is not a response to the mother, request for information, request for action), e.g.: *MOT: This is the walrus. *MOT: Look at its teeth. *CHI: And this is its daddy and this is. . .. . .? 2) Simple response (single action or single word response, repetition), e.g.: *MOT: And the walrus. *CHI: Walrus. 3) Extended response (multi-words or multi-actions response), e.g.: *MOT: This is so nice . . .it’s a koala. *CHI: Koalas eat leaves. *MOT: They eat leaves, yes they do. *MOT: Yes. 4) Disruption (response disrupting conversation, absent response), e.g.: *MOT: Who is this one? *CHI: 0. [+ trn] In addition, for each mother-child dyad, a computation was made of the mean length of the conversational turns which included or were related to a sophisticated word (i.e., the turns contained in the target sequences selected according to the criteria specified above). Specifically, the mean number of turns contained in target segments was computed. 2.4.4. Child lexical development For each child the number of words produced and comprehended was considered calculated using the TVL. One point was assigned for each correct response. Then each score was converted into the standardized score. 2.4.5. Reliability Inter-coder reliability was calculated on a random sample of 20% of the transcripts for each of the three groups. The average Cohen’s kappa was .88 (range from .84 to .92) for mothers’ conversational categories; .92 (range from .86 to .98) for children’s conversational categories; .88 (range from .83 to .93) for sophisticated words; .89 (range from .87 to .93) for tokens; .91 (range from .89 to .91) for types. Cases of disagreement were resolved by discussion in the research group. 2.5. Statistical analysis First, one-way ANOVAs were performed to test group differences in the numbers of sophisticated words (types and tokens). Because of inter-individual and inter-dyad differences in the number of sophisticated words and in the amount of speech produced, the data were analyzed in terms of density (percentages of sophisticated types and tokens on the total number of types and tokens produced) and in terms of the proportions of the different categories of maternal utterances

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Table 1 Lexical characteristics of mothers’ language for each group. SLI-group

Total n. types (content words) Total n. tokens (content words) Total n. sophisticated words (types) Total n. sophisticated words (tokens) Density of sophisticated vocabulary (proportion of types) Density of sophisticated vocabulary (proportion of tokens) Mean length of turns related to a sophisticated word

CA-matched group

LA-matched group

M

SD

M

SD

M

SD

227.89 718.11 6.55 6.89 .03 .01 5.01

47.92 241.97 2.50 3.62 .01 .01 1.75

262.83 739.75 8.00 10.75 .03 .02 4.76

62.24 293.11 2.62 4.69 .01 .01 1.87

125.00 546.53 5.13 7.33 .03 .01 5.10

59.95 284.70 3.38 5.15 .03 .01 1.67

produced (the number of utterances for each category was divided by the total number of utterances related to the sophisticated words produced). Because the measures were of proportions, the data were analyzed using non parametric tests (Kruskal–Wallis and Mann–Whitney U-tests). Then, to assess the potential effect of maternal informativeness and scaffolding on child responsiveness, a sequential analysis (GSEQ, Bakeman & Quera, 1995) was performed between maternal utterances (coded for informativeness and scaffolding) and the child’s utterances (coded for function and complexity). In particular, the extent to which the child’s extended responses during conversation about sophisticated words were a function of maternal direct informativeness and gestural and/or verbal scaffolding was assessed by analysing the transitional probabilities between maternal and child utterances during the target sequences of interaction. Finally, to assess the relationship between maternal support for meaning and child lexical development, two partial correlations were performed between the mother’s utterances and the child’s lexical production as measured by subtests of the TVL. 3. Results 3.1. Types, tokens, and density of exposure to sophisticated words The lexical characteristics of maternal input were analyzed and sophisticated words were identified for each group of dyads. A total of 62 sophisticated words were identified (57 nouns, 3 verbs and 2 adjectives). Of these words 23 (37%) were reported in the text (of these, 11 were in the book The Animals in the Farm and one in both books), 27 (44%) were depicted by a picture in the book, while the remaining 12 (19%) were produced spontaneously by the mothers. Following Weizman and Snow (2001) and considering the low proportion of sophisticated words (particularly those produced spontaneously), we have decided to not differentiate these words according to their presence in the text/picture/spontaneous speech or their grammatical categories. Descriptive statistics are reported in Table 1. The list of sophisticated words, with information about the number of mothers who produced each word at least once (distinguished for group) and the source of each word are reported in Appendix. In order to test the differences between groups in the numbers of sophisticated words (types and tokens), two one-way ANOVAs were conducted. The results indicated significant differences between groups for both types and tokens: [F(2, 42) = 4.59, p = .016, h2 = .18, and F(2, 42) = 4.81, p = .013, h2 = .18, respectively], although the relatively low effect size reveals that these differences were not so important. Bonferroni post hoc tests indicated that mothers of CA-matched children used a significantly higher number of sophisticated words than mothers of children with SLI [tokens: p = .032] and mothers of LAmatched children [tokens: p = .029; types: p = .013]. In order to test differences between groups in the density of sophisticated words, a non-parametric Kruskal–Wallis test for independent samples was performed. This analysis indicated no significant difference between groups [types: x2(2) = .50, p = .78; tokens: x2(2) = 2.82, p = .24]. 3.2. Differences between groups in maternal support for meaning of sophisticated words Maternal informativeness and scaffolding provided in sequences of mother–child interaction related to sophisticated words were analyzed. Descriptive statistics are reported in Table 2. The proportions of the different kinds of informativeness and scaffolding provided in the three groups are compared in Figs. 1 and 2. Table 2 Descriptive statistics for maternal informativeness and scaffolding related to sophisticated words (frequencies of utterances). CA-matched group

SLI-group

Direct informative Indirect informative Not informative No scaffolding Gestural scaffolding Verbal scaffolding

LA-matched group

M

SD

M

SD

M

SD

6.87 1.47 3.87 6.27 4.60 7.93

4.27 1.51 2.26 4.25 3.50 5.60

5.27 3.73 3.80 9.87 2.07 11.73

4.83 2.12 2.01 5.54 2.58 6.51

8.73 1.33 2.60 8.13 2.87 7.13

9.93 1.18 2.41 9.63 2.64 6.50

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Maternal Informativeness 1 0.9 0.8 0.7 0.6 0.5 0.4 0.3 0.2 0.1 0

Absent Indirect Direct

SLI-group

CA-matched group

LA-matched group

Fig. 1. Maternal informativeness in the three groups of dyads.

Maternal Scaffolding 1 0.9 0.8 0.7 0.6 0.5 0.4 0.3 0.2 0.1 0

Absent Verbal Gestural

SLI-group

CA-matched group

LA-matched group

Fig. 2. Maternal scaffolding in the three groups of dyads.

Table 3 Descriptive statistics for categories of mothers’ utterances in verbal interactions surrounding sophisticated words (frequencies of utterances). SLI-group M Directly informative with no interactive scaffolding Indirectly informative with no interactive scaffolding Not informative no interactive scaffolding Directly informative with gestural scaffolding Indirectly informative with gestural scaffolding Not informative with gestural scaffolding Directly informative with verbal scaffolding Indirectly informative with verbal scaffolding Not informative with verbal scaffolding Other Total

SD

CA-matched group

LA-matched group

M

M

SD

SD

4.07 2.17 2.67 2.90 1.14 2.91 1.56 1 1.25 5.13

3.05 1.72 1.41 1.60 0.38 2.02 0.73 0.00 0.50 2.99

5.42 4.08 2.62 2.63 1.67 1.67 1.29 1 1 6.93

4.14 1.78 1.71 1.60 1.15 0.58 0.49 0.00 0.00 3.75

9.27 1.33 1.50 2.20 1.33 1.86 2.29 1.33 1.25 4.44

9.41 0.52 0.76 1.48 0.52 1.07 0.95 0.58 0.50 3.34

24.80

9.05

28.31

9.43

26.80

17.39

A non-parametric Kruskal–Wallis test for independent samples indicated significant differences between groups in the proportions of directly informative and indirectly informative utterances [x2(2) = 6.34, p = .030 and x2(2) = 8.43, p = .019, respectively], as well as of gestural scaffolding, x2(2) = 7.15, p = .024. A Mann–Whitney U-test revealed that the mothers of children with SLI, compared with the mothers of CA-matched children, produced higher proportions of directly informative utterances, U = 58.5, p = 016, and gestural scaffolding, U = 52.5, p = 011, and a lower proportion of indirectly informative utterances, U = 50.5, p = 009. No significant differences were found between the mothers of children with SLI and the mothers of younger LA-matched children. Finally, a Kruskal–Wallis test was conducted to assess differences between groups in categories of maternal utterances (see descriptive statistics in Table 3). Results showed a significant difference only in the proportion of directly informative utterances with gestural scaffolding, x2(2) = 7.77, p = .021. A Mann–Whitney U-test indicated that the mothers in the SLI-group produced a higher proportion of this kind of utterance than the mothers in the CAmatched group, U = 7, p = .011.

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Fig. 3. Mean transitional probabilities between maternal and child utterances in verbal interactions related to sophisticated words, during shared book reading. Only transitional probabilities found to be significant are included (**p < .01).

3.3. Relationship between maternal support for meaning and child conversational responsiveness As explained above, the potential effect of maternal support for meaning on child conversational responsiveness was assessed using a sequential analysis (GSEQ, Bakeman & Quera, 1995) between maternal and child utterances. The analysis was performed by using pooled data across the dyads in each of the three groups: SLI group, CA-matched group, and LAmatched group. The significance of the temporal associations (transitional probabilities) between maternal and child utterances was assessed by the adjusted residuals statistic. Fig. 3 illustrates the associations found to be significant in the SLI group and the CA-matched group; no significant links were found in the LA-matched group. As illustrated in Fig. 3, the presence of maternal support for meaning – specifically, directly informative utterances with gestural scaffolding – affected the occurrence of child extended responses only in the SLI group. In the same group, by contrast, maternal ‘not informative’ utterances, although accompanied by verbal scaffolding, were significantly followed by disruptions. On the other hand, initiations by children with SLI were significantly followed by maternal gestural scaffolding referred to the child’s attentional focus, even if not accompanied by informative utterances. In the group of CA-matched TD

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Table 4 Partial correlations between maternal sophisticated lexicon informativeness and scaffolding, and children’s lexical production (TVL-z score) controlled for children’s types (frequencies) and mother’s years of education.

Density of sophisticated lexicon Direct informativenessb Gestural scaffoldingb Verbal scaffoldingb

a

TVL-production (SLI-group)

TVL-production (CA-matched group)

.165 .483* .689** .284

.247 .661* .246 .402

a

Proportion of types. Frequencies of utterances. * p < .05. ** p < .01.

b

children, only one significant association between maternal and child utterances was found: maternal ‘not informative’ utterances including a sophisticated word but no interactive scaffolding elicited simple responses (typically, repetitions) from children more than was expected by chance. 3.4. Relationship between maternal support for meaning and child lexical development In order to analyze whether and how maternal support for meaning associated with the use of sophisticated words (informativeness and scaffolding) is related with children’s lexical development as measured using TVL approximately three months after the second session of shared book reading, two separate non parametric partial correlation tests were conducted. These tests were for two groups of children (SLI group and CA-matched group) and were for lexical production (TVL naming subtest, z score) and for lexical comprehension (TVL word comprehension subtest). Since the frequency of shared book reading at home could be related to the quality of maternal support for meaning, a correlation analysis between this variable (as measured by the weekly occurrences of shared reading reported by mothers) and both the quality of maternal support and the child’s lexical development was preliminarly conducted. No significant associations were found, so this variable was not inserted as a control variable in the partial correlation analyses. However, following other studies (Pancsofar & Vernon-Feagans, 2006; Weizman & Snow, 2001), child language production (number of types produced during the first observational session) and mother’s years of education – which might easily influence the child’s later language outcomes, – were controlled in the correlations. Results from each partial correlation analysis are reported in Table 4. The data show that child lexical production is related with maternal direct informativeness in both the SLI and CAmatched groups, and with maternal gestural scaffolding only in the SLI group. 4. Discussion The aim of the present study was to assess maternal lexical sophistication and related support for meaning during shared book reading with Italian children with SLI, compared with two groups of TD children – age-matched and language-matched. Furthermore, based on studies of TD children that have found a relationship between the quality of maternal lexicon and interactive scaffolding, and child’s language participation and development (Hoff & Naigles, 2002; Majorano et al., 2013; Pancsofar & Vernon-Feagans, 2006; Weizman & Snow, 2001), this study investigated this possible relationship in dyads with children with SLI. These data are part of a wider research project which has the aim of assessing different aspects of parent– child communication with children with SLI. While some specific pragmatic and structural characteristics of maternal input have been reported in previous studies (Barachetti & Lavelli, 2011; Majorano & Lavelli, 2014), this paper adds a new focus on maternal support for meaning associated with the use of low-frequency words (sophisticated lexicon). This aspect has been shown to be related to later language development (Beals, 1997; Weizman & Snow, 2001). In addition, this issue could be particularly critical for children with SLI who display difficulties in word learning, as reported in other studies on word finding (e.g. Messer & Dockrell, 2006). With regard to the first aim, the data indicated that mothers of children with SLI displayed higher proportions of direct informativeness and gestural scaffolding in conversation related to sophisticated words than did mothers of CA-matched TD children. These results are consistent with some other studies, both with children exposed to other languages and with some of the participants in this study, indicating that mothers of children with SLI are able to adapt the pragmatic characteristics of their language to their children’s linguistic limitations (Barachetti & Lavelli, 2011; Crowe, Norris, & Hoffman, 2003; Majorano & Lavelli, 2014). Two aspects emerged. First, the mothers of children with SLI provided their children with a lower level of lexical sophistication (lower frequency of sophisticated words) than was addressed to TD peers, but with a similar density in the lexicon In addition, they furnished more direct information about the meanings of the new words, by explaining the more salient characteristics of the referent, and by adding gestural scaffolding (especially pointing at the picture in the book). They also used lower proportions of indirectly informative utterances. This is in line with data from the previous study with some of the same group of children (Majorano & Lavelli, 2014), which showed that mothers of children with SLI produced ‘‘simpler’’ words (adverbs and adjectives more frequent in the Italian lexicon) compared with mothers of TD children. At the same time, they are able to ‘‘tune’’ their language to the structural characteristics of their children’s (less sophisticated) speech. These further findings from the present study suggest that mothers of children with SLI are aware of the importance

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of providing their children with information and support to expand their linguistic knowledge, especially in the case of low frequency words. This is also in line with a previous study by Barachetti and Lavelli (2011) which indicated that mothers of children with SLI produced more highly supportive repairs (recasts) than mothers of TD peers, and that supportive repairs affected the occurrence of minimally adequate answers from their children. The second aim of this study was to investigate the potential effect of maternal support for meaning of sophisticated words on the child’s conversational responsiveness. Sequential analysis provided empirical evidence of this effect in the group of children with SLI: only in the SLI group was there a significant probability of eliciting extended responses from children when maternal directly informative utterances were accompanied by gestural scaffolding. Taking into account that maternal gestural scaffolding was provided through guiding the child’s attention to the referent of the word by pointing a picture in the book or, less frequently, by representing the referent with gestures, these findings suggest a sensitivity to maternal gestures on the part of children with SLI. This is in line with some studies showing that these children are more sensitive than TD peers to gestural cues in both spontaneous communication and experimental tasks (; Botting, Riches, Gaynor, & Morgan, 2010; Kirk, Pine, & Ryder, 2011; Lavelli et al., in press). A possible explanation for this result may lie in the fact that children with SLI, due to their language processing limitations (Leonard, 2014), tend to be more input-dependent (Conti-Ramsden, 1990; Riches et al., 2006) and, as a consequence, more sensitive than their TD peers to the different communicative modalities provided by their mothers. A second explanation – a complementary explanation rather than an alternative – considers that mothers of preschoolers with SLI, aware of their children’s linguistic difficulties, use pointing to single out specific referents from the other objects depicted in the picture-book and to make more salient relationships between referents and accompanying sophisticated words, thereby facilitating the child’s linguistic processing and engagement in conversation. Sequential analysis also revealed that only in the SLI group were maternal ‘non- informative’ utterances accompanied by verbal scaffolding significantly followed by the child’s disruptions. These findings suggest that verbal scaffolding, aimed at encouraging the child’s engagement in conversation, might rather tire children with language limitations whether or not accompanied by direct information on the referent of the communicative exchange. Finally, with regard to the third aim (assessing the relationship between maternal input and child language development), the relationship that was found between the quality of maternal input (lexical sophistication, informativeness, and scaffolding) and child lexical development is in line with other studies conducted with TD children (Beals, 1997; Weizman & Snow, 2001, Pancsofar & Vernon-Feagans, 2006). Focusing on lexical-semantic aspects, the information about low-frequency words and the mother’s interactive scaffolding help the child to make connections between already known information and new materials. Therefore, the communicative exchanges surrounding low-frequency words are particularly important for providing the child not only with linguistic data (Hoff & Naigles, 2002), but also with cultural knowledge connected with word meanings (Beals, 1997). In line with previous experimental studies, the mother’s informativeness and scaffolding for meaning can be considered as ‘‘cues’’ that provide the child with the opportunity to create a lexical and semantic representation of new words, which can be reinforced over time in long-term semantic memory after several exposures, and can then be accessed (Ellis Weismer & Hesketh, 1993; Gupta & MacWhinney, 1997; McGregor, Sheng, & Ball, 2007). Focusing on pragmatic aspects, these maternal communicative characteristics enable the jointly engaged nature of mother–child conversation to be enhanced and the child’s attentional focus to be shared, thus improving the child’s vocabulary development (Carpenter, Nagell & Tomasello, 1998). 5. Conclusions In summary, the present study highlights the importance of interactive support for meaning when dealing with sophisticated words during conversations with children with SLI. What the present study adds to the existing literature is empirical evidence of the specificity of the conversational support for meaning shown by mothers of children with SLI during shared book reading. Other experimental studies have indicated that in the process of word learning, children with SLI benefit to a greater degree than TD peers from semantic cues (Gray, 2005); however, no information has been presented on low-frequency word use in an interactive setting such as shared book reading. The results from both sequential analysis and longitudinal correlation analysis – i.e., the ‘‘synchronic-sequential’’ positive effect of maternal support for meaning on child conversational participation, and the ‘‘diachronic’’ effect on child lexical development– underline a peculiarity of children with SLI and conversations between these children and their mothers compared with conversations of TD children, specifically, that children with SLI benefit when provided with direct information and gestural scaffolding. These aspects not only compensate for the gap between the skills required in a conversation and children’s linguistic limitations, but they are also particularly effective due to the input dependence and sensitivity to gestural information shown by children with SLI. Further research including other interactive settings will allow us to assess whether direct information accompanied by gestural scaffolding as a peculiar aspect of maternal support for meaning addressed to children with SLI is maintained across different interactive contexts, or whether other pragmatic and semantic aspects of parental guidance, scaffolding, and sharing of experiences with children with SLI will emerge. However, this study has a small sample size and a larger one is clearly needed in order to assess the consistency of the findings. These findings, if replicated in larger studies, could have important clinical implications. Firstly, given the importance of lexical sophistication for language development, clinicians should be encouraged to teach parents not to limit the use of sophisticated words during conversation with their children, but rather to accompany sophisticated lexicon with

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adequate support for meaning. Secondly, it would also be useful for training parents of children with linguistic impairments to reflect on their lexicon and communication strategies which can support or expand their children’s language abilities, especially during joint activities such as shared book reading. Acknowledgements This work is part of a wider National Research Project PRIN-prot.2008J2WEEK_002 ‘‘Gestures and words in shared picture-book reading with preschoolers with specific language impairment: Analysing parent–child interaction to promote effective conversational strategies’’, co-funded for the years 2010–2012 by the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research (MIUR), and the University of Verona to Manuela Lavelli. The authors are extremely grateful to all the mothers and the children who participated in the study.

Appendix A: Continuing education questions CEU Questions 1) The mothers of children with SLI produce a higher frequency of direct utterances with gestural scaffolding than mothers of typically developing peers (TD). 2) The mother’s informativeness and scaffolding during the conversation have an effect on: a) the number of types produced by the child b) the child’s extended utterances c) the child’s mean length of utterance d) the number of the child’s tokens 3) The mother’s gestural scaffolding is related to: a) the child’s lexical development, only for children with SLI b) the child’s grammatical development c) the child’s lexical development for both children with SLI and CA-matched d) the child’s phonological development 4) The results of the study showed that: a) mothers of children with SLI used a higher frequency of directive utterances than did mothers of TD children b) mothers of children with SLI attune their language to their children’s limited linguistic competence c) mothers of children with SLI produced a larger number of utterances than did mothers of TD children d) mothers of children with SLI produced a lower number of conversational recasts than did mothers of TD children 5) A sophisticated word is: a) a word with low frequency in the input b) a word with high complexity c) a word never produced by children with SLI d) a word with multiple meanings

Appendix B List of the low-frequency words embedded in mother-child conversation during shared book reading, number of mothers producing each word at least once, and source of the words. SLI-group aragosta arare aratro astice baccelli baco badile branchie cabinato cactus camoscio cerbiatto chiocciola civetta concimare conigliera

lobster to plough plough lobster pod worm shovel gill with cabin cactus chamois fawn snail owl fertilize rabbit pen

CA-group

LA-group

Text

2 1 1 1 1 1

X

X X X X X X X

1 1

7 6 7

12 4 7

Spontaneous

X X

1

1 1 1 2 2 1 2 1

Picture

X X X X X X

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Appendix B (Continued ) SLI-group daino dromedario eucalipto fagiano falconiere fienile germoglio ghiotto giumenta iguana koala licantropo mangime marea marsupio mietere mietitrebbia montone muletto nicchia orca ostrica paguro parafango piovra penumatico provviste puledro pungiglione rapanello rimorchio ruspa savana scampo scrofa sequoia serbatoio setole sogliola stambecco tartufo tentacoli trebbia tricheco ventre zanna

deer dromedary eucalyptus pheasant falconer hayloft sprout greedy dam iguana koala lycantrophe animal feed tide pouch reap harvester male sheep fork lift niche killing wale oyster hermit crab fender octopus tyre stock colt sting radish trailer scarper savannah shrimp sow giant sequoia tank bristel sole steinbock tyruffle tentacle tresh walrus womb fang Total

CA-group

LA-group

Text

1 6 1

8

7

13

4

8

8

X 1 1 3 1 3 1 1

X X X X X X X X X

9 8 5

6 1

1

2 4

X X X

2

11

11 7 6

1 9

Spontaneous

X

1 1 1 2

Picture

X 1 3 1 1 1 2 2 1 1 1 1

X X X

6

X

3 1 1 1 1 1 1 1

X X

X X X X X X X X X X

1

1 2 8

8 4

4 4

98

120

2 3 1 1 1 2 2 1 77

X X X X X X X X X X X X X X 23

X 27

12

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