Specific Language Impairment Research Unit (SLIRU)

  • Unit(s) of assessment: Social Work and Social Policy
  • School: School of Social Sciences


Specific Language Impairment (SLI) is a common developmental disorder that affects around seven percent of the population. Children with SLI show a range of language deficits involving both comprehension and production, including being late in acquiring their first words, having smaller vocabularies, and having problems with morphology and syntax. The principal agenda of the SLI Research Unit within the Division of Psychology is to examine the underlying causes of these language problems. It also attempts to explain the underlying SLI deficit and helps provide focus for interested parties dealing with appropriate interventions and / or training for children with SLI.

Our research work involves the following two key areas of the SLI deficit.

Phonological ability
One key marker of SLI is a deficit in tests of phonological ability such as nonsense word repetition. Our research in this area is examining children's performance on nonsense word repetition together with the development of a computational model of repetition performance. By providing an accurate simulation of the repetition errors made by children with SLI, the research will help to specify the patterns of impairment that are implicated in the SLI deficit. (Investigating the cognitive deficits that underlie specific language impairment, The Leverhulme Trust, £101,053).

Spoken and written language skills
It is now well established that children with SLI are at risk of literacy failure. Our research in this area focuses on the relationship between children's spoken language difficulties and their written language development. In particular, the project will assess whether the morphological and phonological deficits that characterise SLI are also present in written language.

Research projects
We conduct a range of studies involving both typically-developing children and children with language impairments, particularly those with SLI. We are therefore always pleased to hear from schools who are interested in working with us on future studies. Please feel free to contact Gary Jones or any of the other members of the Unit if you would like to work with us or if our research interests you.

Research from the Specific Language Impairment Research Unit research group informs a range of the Division of Psychology's courses including the educational and developmental pathway on the BSc (Hons) Psychology, MSc Applied Child Psychology and research degrees.

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+44 (0)115 941 8418