The present research examined the quality of the phonological representations of French children with specific language impairment (SLI) and those with normal language development (NLD). Twenty-five children with SLI and 50 children with NLD matched on lexical age level participated in an auditory lexical decision task. The observations gathered in our study can be summarized as follows. First, children with a higher receptive lexical level performed better, and this was true both for children with NLD and children with SLI. Second, both children with NLD and those with SLI were more likely to reject pseudowords resulting from a modification affecting the number of syllables of a word than pseudowords resulting from a slight modification with the number of syllables unchanged. This difference, however, was greater for the children with SLI, who appeared to have much difficulty rejecting pseudowords resulting from slight modifications. Finally, the performance of children with SLI was particularly poor when presented with pseudowords resulting from a slight modification at the beginning or the end of a word. These findings are interpreted as supporting the hypothesis of an under-specification of phonological representations in children with SLI.
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