Finiteness marking in Russian-speaking children with Specific Language Impairment

Zarina Levy-Forsythe, Aviya Hacohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Much crosslinguistic acquisition research explores finiteness marking in typical development and Specific Language Impairment (SLI). Research into Russian, however, has focused on typical acquisition, not SLI. This article presents a first attempt to investigate finiteness marking in monolingual Russian-speaking children with SLI. We test two competing hypotheses: the Extended Optional Infinitive (EOI) hypothesis and the morphological richness account. The former predicts a large proportion of non-finite forms in the speech of children with SLI crosslinguistically. Due to the rich morphological verbal system of Russian, the latter hypothesis predicts that finiteness marking in Russian SLI will be relatively unimpeded, except for ‘near-miss’ errors. To test these predictions, we analyzed picture-story narrative samples collected from 67 monolingual Russian-acquiring children aged 4;1 to 4;11. All samples are part of the BiSLI corpus created by Tribushinina and colleagues and publicly available through the CHILDES project. We found that, similar to both aged-matched typically developing (TD) controls (N = 24) and younger TD children (N = 23), children with SLI (N = 20) are essentially adultlike in terms of finiteness marking of verbal forms in the matrix clause. The handful of errors observed in the SLI sample involved substitutions in only one inflectional category. These findings provide support for the morphological richness hypothesis over the EOI model of Russian SLI.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124-143
Number of pages20
JournalFirst Language
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2022


  • Extended Optional Infinitive
  • Russian
  • SLI
  • Specific Language Impairment
  • finiteness marking
  • morphological richness
  • root infinitives

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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