This study examined the electrophysiological activity of two children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI) and two aged-matched peers while listening to syntactically correct sentences versus syntactically incorrect sentences. The study specifically analyzed the N400 and P600 components. The N400 component is a negative wave occurring approximately 400 ms post-stimulus and is elicited by semantically incorrect stimuli. The P600 component is a positivity that occurs approximately 600 ms post-stimulus and reflects processing of syntactically incorrect stimuli. The participants in the study included a 7-year-old child and a 9-year-old child with SLI and two age-matched peers with typically developing language. Each participant listened to a series of syntactically correct and incorrect stimuli. The results of this study indicate that children with SLI present with an N400 while listening to both syntactically correct and incorrect stimuli. This suggests that these participants have greater lexical and semantic processing demands while listening to sentence stimuli. The study also suggests that 7-year-olds have greater syntactic processing demands as seen by the presence of the P600 in both the correct and incorrect conditions. This was likely due to the complexity of the sentence stimuli which included irregular past tense and irregular plural forms. Further research is still needed in order to better understand the role of the N400 and P600 in children with SLI, which will provide useful information regarding the neurological basis for language impairments.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Communication Disorders



Date Submitted


Document Type





event related potentials, electrophysiological, specific language impairment, children