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A group of 54 children with specific language impairment was compared with a control group on a referential communication task in which the child was asked to describe a picture from an array of eight similar items so that the listener could identify it. The language-impaired children performed more poorly than age-matched controls. However, there was no relationship between referential communication performance and conversational ability. Children who provided excessive and irrelevant information in conversation did not show the same characteristics in the experimental setting. Formal task requirements, such as the need to scan an array, appeared to be a major determinant of performance on structured referential communication tasks. These tasks are not sensitive to the types of pragmatic difficulty that some children have in open-ended conversation. © 1991, Cambridge University Press. All rights reserved.

Original publication




Journal article


Applied Psycholinguistics

Publication Date





199 - 215