Inference generation during discourse and its relation to social competence: An online investigation of abilities of children with and without language impairment

Janet A. Ford, Linda Meryl Milosky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

31 Scopus citations


Purpose: This study examined whether young children with typical language development (TL) and children with language impairment (LI) make emotion inferences online during the process of discourse comprehension, identified variables that predict emotion inferencing, and explored the relationship of these variables to social competence. Method: Preschool children (16 TL and 16 LI) watched narrated videos designed to activate knowledge about a particular emotional state. Following each story, children named a facial expression that either matched or did not match the anticipated emotion. Several experimental tasks examined linguistic and nonlinguistic abilities. Finally, each child's teacher completed a measure of social competence. Results: Children with TL named expressions significantly more slowly in the mismatched condition than in the matched condition, whereas children with LI did not differ in response times between the conditions. Language and vocal response time measures were related to emotion inferencing ability, and this ability predicted social competence scores. Conclusion: The findings suggest that children with TL are inferring emotions during the comprehension process, whereas children with LI often fail to make these inferences. Making emotion inferences is related to discourse comprehension and to social competence in children. The current findings provide evidence that language and vocal response time measures predicted inferencing ability and suggest that additional factors may influence discourse inferencing and social competence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)367-380
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2008



  • Emotion
  • Inferencing
  • Language impairment
  • Social competence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Health Professions(all)
  • Linguistics and Language

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