Nouns and verbs used by preschoolers with language impairment

Marianne Querido Verreschi Ana Manhani Cáceres-Assenço Debora Maria Befi-Lopes About the authors



To compare the functional use of verbs and nouns by Brazilian Portuguese-speaking children with language impairment (LI) and to verify whether their use of these word classes is different from that of children with typical language development (TLD). This study also aimed to compare the use of each verb type between groups.


Participants were 80 preschool children, 20 of them diagnosed with LI and 60 with TLD. The age ranges of participants were 3 to 6 years for children with LI and 2 to 4 years for children with TLD. Individuals were paired based on their expressive language age. Ludic interaction was used to elicit the speech sample from which nouns and verbs were selected from spontaneous speech. All nouns and verbs were tabulated and verbs were classified.


Preschoolers with LI use verbs more often than nouns in their production of spontaneous speech. The use of nouns presented no difference between the groups, but verb use frequency was higher in children with LI for the 3-year-old subgroup. The verbs most frequently used by children with LI were copula, intransitive, and transitive direct. Comparison between the groups revealed few differences regarding the use of transitive direct, bitransitive, and copular verbs. Only transitive circumstantial verbs were more often used by children with TLD at all ages.


The use of nouns and verbs by children with LI complies with the typical development standard, but it occurs more slowly. The use of verbs with fewer complements is predominant in these children.

Child Language; Language Disorders; Vocabulary; Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences; Language Development

Sociedade Brasileira de Fonoaudiologia Al. Jaú, 684, 7º andar, 01420-002 São Paulo - SP Brasil, Tel./Fax 55 11 - 3873-4211 - São Paulo - SP - Brazil