Applied Psycholinguistics


Indicators of linguistic competence in the peer group conversational behavior of mildly retarded adults1

Sheldon Rosenberga1 c1 and Leonard Abbedutoa2

a1 University of Illinois at Chicago

a2 Peabody College, Vanderbilt University


Samples of the communicative behavior of a group of higher-level mentally retarded adults engaged in conversation with peers were examined for indications of mature linguistic competence, specifically, grammatical morpheme and complex sentence use. The findings confirmed the expectation that the eventual level of mastery of these aspects of linguistic competence in higher-level retarded individuals is relatively high. Evidence for a normal developmental progression in the mastery of the grammatical morphemes was also forthcoming. In an analysis of individual complex sentence structures, no relationship was found between relative frequency of use of different types of complex sentences and presumed order of acquisition. However, subjects' ability to combine complex sentences did appear to be related to the presumed order of acquisition, although other factors may have also contributed to this relationship. Unexpectedly, a significant negative correlation was observed between relative frequency of complex sentence use and an estimate of conversational communicative competence. A possible reason for this finding was discussed.


c1 Sheldon Rosenberg, Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago, Box 4348, Chicago, Illinois 60680


1 The present research was supported in part by funds from Grant HD 10321, National Institute for Child Health and Human Development, Professor Gershon Berkson, principal investigator, and from the Illinois Institute for Developmental Disabilities, Professor Arnold Sameroff, research director. The authors are indebted to Professors Berkson and Sameroff for their interest in this research