ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

›› 2009, Vol. 41 ›› Issue (07): 602-612.

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Comprehension of Verbal Communication Strategies Characterized by Chinese Primary School Students with Learning Disabilities: A Developmental Study

YAN Rong;YU Guo-Liang   

  1. ( 1. Research Center for Language and Cognition, School of English, Beijing International Studies University, Beijing100024, China) 2. Research Institute of Psychology, Renmin University of China, Beijing 100872, China)
  • Received:2008-03-26 Revised:1900-01-01 Published:2009-07-30 Online:2009-07-30
  • Contact: YU Guo-Liang

Abstract: Verbal communication strategy(VCS) refers to the programmed knowledge applied by individuals to comprehend and express intentions in their achievement of communicative objectives according to social conventions. Even though the mechanism of VCS has been intensely studied over the past decade, very little is known about how LD children comprehend VCS from a developmental perspective. It is still controversial that LD children are developmentally retarded than NLD children owing to different approaches to measure VCS comprehension level. Using VCS comprehension scenarios, this study aims to explore the development of VCS comprehension skills characterized by Chinese learning-disabled children(Grade 3-6) in primary schools. It also examined the effect of speech act on LD children’s comprehension performance.
117 LD children and 124 Non-LD children participated in this study. They were randomly chosen from two primary schools in Beijing. The testing materials are composed of 4 relevant scenarios and 4 filler scenarios. Each scenario was related to a face-threatening communication context. Two versions of each relevant scenario were created to manipulate the type of the strategy used in the conversation. One half of the time the speaker was adopting a request strategy to make a request; the reminder of the time the speaker was using a reply strategy to make a response to the question raised by the other peer. For each version, two different remarks were used to manipulate the directness for the expression of instrumental intention, aiming to save the hearer’s face. Dependent measures were analyzed with a 4×2×2×2(Grade×Group×Strategy type×Intention Expression) analysis of variance(ANOVA), with repeated measures on strategy type and expression of intention.
The results indicated that LD children were developmentally retarded than those without learning disabilities in their global comprehension level. However, their developmental trajectory varied with specific speech act type and the delay was only manifested in those strategies with higher degree of indirectness for intention expression.
The present study provided a new perspective to examine the social skills of LD children. Social behavior is conducted through the utilization of language, such as understanding and formulating requests or replies to achieve personal goals and make coordinated social actions. As expected, LD children exhibited significant difficulties in comprehending appropriate verbal messages to their peers in response to the changing social contexts, in that producing verbal massages can be a demanding cognitive task that requires not only basic linguistic knowledge, but also elaborate inferences about the partner and the situation. The above results suggest that pragmatic knowledge should be taken into consideration for the improvement of LD children’s social skills.

Key words: verbal communication strategy, learning disabilities, developmental characteristics