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Handout H: Five Components of Language and the Impact of  Visual Impairments

Sapp, W.K. (2005). Five components of language and the impact of visual impairments. Chapel Hill, NC: Early Intervention Training Center for Infants and Toddlers With Visual Impairments, FPG Child Development Institute, UNC-CH.

Language component

Definition

Language development specific to children with visual impairments

Phonology

Rules that govern the use of speech sounds

  • No significant differences

Morphology

Rules that determine the internal organization of words

  • No significant differences

Semantics

Rules that determine the meaning of words and word combinations

  • Similarly sized vocabularies
  • Use more specific nouns and fewer general nouns
  • Discrepant expressive and receptive communication scores
  • Less efficient at verbal classification
  • Rarely ask rhetorical questions

Syntax

Rules that govern the form of sentences

  • No significant differences

Pragmatics

Rules that govern how a given language is used in different social contexts and environments

  • Engage in similar number of communication acts
  • Have fewer verbal turns
  • Have shorter speaking turns
  • Parents more likely to initiate interactions
  • Reduced ability to use and read body language
  • Use questions more frequently; primarily to request an action from another person
  • Rely more on imitation, repetition, and routines

References

Bigelow, A.E. (1987). Early words of blind children. Journal of Child Language, 14(1), 47-56.

Conti-Ramsden, G., & Pérez-Pereira, M. (1999). Conversational interactions between mothers and their infants who are congenitally blind, have low vision, or are sighted. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 93(11), 691-703.

DeMott, R.M. (1972). Verbalism and affective meaning for the blind, severely visually impaired, and normally sighted children. New Outlook for the Blind, 66(1), 1-8, 25.

Dimovic, N., & Tobin, M.J. (1995). The use of language in simple classification tasks by children who are blind. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 89(5), 448-459.

Erin, J.N. (1986). Frequencies and types of questions in the language of visually impaired children. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 80(4), 670-674.

Erin, J. (1990). Language samples from visually impaired four- and five-year olds. Journal of Childhood Communication Disorders, 13(2), 181-191.

Kekelis, L.S., & Prinz, P.M. (1996). Blind and sighted children with their mothers: The development of discourse skills. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 90(5), 423-436.

McConachie, H. (1990). Early language development and severe visual impairment. Child: Care, Health, and Development, 16, 55-61.

McConachie, H.R., & Moore, V. (1994). Early expressive language of severely visually impaired children. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 36(3), 230-240.

Pérez-Pereira, M., & Castro, J. (1992). Pragmatic functions of blind and sighted children’s language: A twin case study. First Language, 12(34, pt. 1), 17-37.

Pérez-Pereira, M., & Castro, J. (1997). Language acquisition and the compensation of visual deficit: New comparative data on a controversial topic. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 15(4), 439-459.