The Syntactical Ability of a Young Girl with Williams Syndrome

By Arapovikj, Diana; Pranjikj, Vishnja | The Journal of Special Education and Rehabilitation, January 1, 2008 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

The Syntactical Ability of a Young Girl with Williams Syndrome

Arapovikj, Diana, Pranjikj, Vishnja, The Journal of Special Education and Rehabilitation


This research was carried out on a young girl with Williams syndrome, whose syntactical ability was tested longitudinally over a period of 22 months, from age 9 years and 3 months to 11 years and 1 month. The assumption was that the girl with Williams syndrome would have poorer syntactical ability than children with regular development, but similar to children with specific language impairment (SLI) and that in all tasks she would achieve better results in the final testing. Syntax was analyzed on the basis of the fundamental variable of repeating sentences, which consisted of five subvariables: literal repetition of sentences, sentences repeated with omissions, ungrammatical repetition of sentences, sentences with altered content, sentences not repeated. A statistical difference was found between the syntactical ability of the girl with Williams' syndrome and children with normal development in all tested sub-variables, and her results were the same as in children with specific language impairment. Moreover, in the final testing the girl achieved better results than in the initial test.

Key words: Williams' syndrome, syntactical ability, specific language impairment

(ProQuest: ... denotes non-US-ASCII text omitted.)

1. Introduction

1.1. Williams syndrome

Williams (or Williams - Beuren) syndrome is a rare neuro-developmental disorder, which affects the cognitive, behavioral and motor areas. Its incidence is 1:20,000 (1) to 1: 25,000 newborns (2). We can compare these figures with the incidence of some genetic disorders with which persons with Williams syndrome are most often compared. The incidence of X fragile syndrome is 1: 4 000 for males and 1: 6 000 for female newborns. The prevalence of autistic spectral disorder is 4.5: 10,000, the incidence in the USA 10:10000, whilst Down's syndrome has an incidence of 1:700 births (3).

1.2. The language of childern and adults with Williams syndrome

Small children with Williams syndrome have atypical linguistic development. They speak their first words before showing objects and all nonverbal activities are significantly weaker in relation to children with normal development (4). Most people with Williams syndrome express themselves in full sentences and a large proportion of them understand simple instructions, but only a small part of this population understand complex instructions without additional explanations (5). Children with Williams syndrome mainly master basic literacy but less than half of them master complex written linguistic skills such as writing sentences or constructing a simple letter. In children, but also in adults with Williams syndrome, verbal abilities are not on the same level as their general cognitive abilities. They are usual higher than the general IQ. The good linguistic abilities of these children are out of line with their lower level of intelligence (6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11).

The striking contrast between their cognitive deficit and their unusual linguistic ability indicates the need to consider language independently from cognition (12). In persons with Williams syndrome language is rich and fluent, and their phonology is relatively good.

Regarding linguistic processing, children with Williams syndrome have more difficulties processing non-verbal information than verbal. These difficulties in processing information occur after learning to speak. The assumption is that in children with Williams syndrome linguistic development takes place differently than in children with normal development (13). Although language is considered to be well-developed in relation to other skills, focal points of damage to the linguistic system have been shown in children with Williams syndrome (14). Major differences have been recorded in difficulties in understanding complex sentence structures such as the reflexive passive, interpretation of pronouns, or nouns and objects. In spontaneous speech some subjects showed difficulties with syntax and semantics, whilst others had problems with linguistic structure.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

The Syntactical Ability of a Young Girl with Williams Syndrome


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?