Linguistic, concept and symbolic composition in adults with minimal receptive vocabulary

Clinical Linguistics and Phonetics 10 (2023)
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In this paper, we examine some basic linguistic abilities in a small sample of adults with minimal receptive vocabulary, whose receptive mental verbal age ranges from 1;2 to 3;10. In particular, we examine whether the participants in our study understand noun phrases consisting of a noun modified by an adjective. We use stimuli that they can recognise by name. Except for one participant, we find that, while all of them understand the noun and adjective in isolation, none seems to understand these noun phrases, which means that they seem to not do linguistic composition. In order to test whether the difficulty is linguistic or conceptual, we ran two other studies, one on concept composition, and the other on iconic symbolic composition (composition of pictograms). Results suggest that linguistic composition is particularly difficult in this population, and that vocabulary breadth may not predict compositional abilities.

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