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How Down syndrome influences language development

Little is known about the language development and abilities of individuals with intellectual disabilities. An EU initiative explored to what extent Down syndrome (DS) hinders the development of grammar in Greek Cypriots.
How Down syndrome influences language development
An understudied aspect of linguistic development in DS concerns the relation of language to cognition. To address the question, the EU-funded CG-DS MORPHOSYNTAX (The development of Cypriot Greek in individuals with Down syndrome: Their morphosyntactic profile, and the effects of phonetics and phonology) project explored the similarities and differences in grammar acquisition between Greek Cypriot children and adolescents diagnosed with DS and children with typical language development.

Project partners studied a broad range of grammatical phenomena in Cypriot Greek to determine linguistic ability and performance across different ages for both groups. Results show that children with DS experience minor grammatical issues with respect to the language's phonetic and phonological systems mainly due to speech and language therapy. In contrast, adults with DS who received little or no therapy exhibited evident phonetic and phonological restrictions, according to previous research. Findings suggest that such early intervention for children with DS can significantly improve linguistic abilities.

Preliminary results reveal that both children with DS and typical language development have fully acquired the inflectional system of Cypriot Greek. Specifically, when examining the production of tense, subject-verb agreement and case, both groups performed similarly with high accuracy rates exceeding 90%. The participants’ performance with syntactic structures such those of imperative, relative, and subjunctive clauses was also quite accurate, though they did better on comprehension. In addition, the two groups have developed parallel coping strategies when producing complex syntactic structures such as using subjunctive instead of imperative clauses, or relative instead of subjunctive clauses.

CG-DS Morphosyntax has provided valuable insight into the overall linguistic abilities of children with DS. In doing so, it will contribute to more timely and efficient diagnosis, assessment, and intervention and enable speech and language therapy in achieving desired goals concerning intellectual disabilities.

Related information


Life Sciences


Down syndrome, language development, CG-DS Morphosyntax, Cypriot Greek, phonetics
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