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Comprehension of clitic pronouns by children with cochlear implants: the role of sentence stress.

OBJECTIVES: This study investigates the role of sentence stress on the comprehension of sentences with clitic pronouns (unstressed morphemes and a typical feature of Romance languages) by children with cochlear implants (CIs).

METHODS: Thirteen children (seven girls) with CIs and 15 children (seven girls) with NH between eight and 12 years who are monolingual speakers of Brazilian Portuguese participated on a computerized sentence comprehension task that involved manipulation of stress placement of possible antecedent words to clitic pronouns.

RESULTS: Children with CIs were significantly less accurate than children with NH in comprehending sentences with clitics, regardless of sentence stress. For children with NH, stress on the correct antecedent significantly increased sentence comprehension accuracy. For children with CI, there was no significant effect of sentence stress on selecting the correct antecedent for clitic pronouns.

DISCUSSION: Comprehension of sentences with clitic pronouns is challenging for children with CIs and this challenge holds cross-linguistically. Furthermore, children with CIs do not use prosodic information to support comprehension of sentences with clitics similarly to NH children.

CONCLUSION: Language-specific syntactic, morphosyntactic, and prosodic contrasts affecting sentence comprehension need to be assessed in children with CIs to plan an effective intervention.

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