Event related potentials (ERPs) may provide specific information about how particular aspects of language are processed by the brain over time. This study investigated the electrophysiology of language processing in two children with language impairment (LI) when compared to five typically developing children. The N400, P600, and the early left anterior negativity (ELAN) were analyzed after participants listened to linguistically correct, syntactically incorrect, and semantically incorrect sentences. Participants were instructed to indicate whether the sentences were correct or incorrect. Latency and amplitude of the ERP components were compared between the two groups of participants and sentence types. Results from the current study concerning the typically developing children suggest that, at least by eight years of age, typically developing children may process linguistic information similarly to adults with regard to the areas of the brain that are activated during the processing of linguistic stimuli. When comparing results from participants with LI and their typically developing counterparts, results indicate that children with LI exhibit slower real-time language processing than typically developing children. Results also indicate that children with LI require more effort than typically developing children in processing linguistic information as indicated by the amplitude of the N400 and the ELAN. In analyzing the P600 in both groups of participants, results indicate that syntactic processing may be intact in children with LI as well as typical children. Results concerning the N400 and the ELAN were variable between the two participants with LI indicating that children with LI may be heterogeneous even in the presence of similar tasks. Results obtained from the ELAN may also indicate that the ELAN is not fully mature at eight years of age.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Communication Disorders



Date Submitted


Document Type





P600, N400, ELAN, event related potentials, language impairment, semantics, syntax