Viewpoint  |   May 2009
Is Expressive Language Disorder an Accurate Diagnostic Category?
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Laurence B. Leonard
    Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
  • Contact author: Laurence B. Leonard, Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, 500 Oval Drive, Heavilon Hall, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907. E-mail: xdxl@purdue.edu.
Language Disorders / Viewpoint
Viewpoint   |   May 2009
Is Expressive Language Disorder an Accurate Diagnostic Category?
American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology May 2009, Vol.18, 115-123. doi:10.1044/1058-0360(2008/08-0064)
History: Accepted 21 Oct 2008 , Received 27 Aug 2008
American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology May 2009, Vol.18, 115-123. doi:10.1044/1058-0360(2008/08-0064)
History: Accepted 21 Oct 2008 , Received 27 Aug 2008

Purpose: To propose that the diagnostic category of “expressive language disorder” as distinct from a disorder of both expressive and receptive language might not be accurate.

Method: Evidence that casts doubt on a pure form of this disorder is reviewed from several sources, including the literature on genetic findings, theories of language impairments, and the outcomes of late talkers with expressive language delays. Areas of language that are problematic in production but not readily amenable to comprehension testing are also discussed.

Conclusions: The notion of expressive language disorder has been formalized in classification systems and is implicit if not explicit in the organization of many standardized tests. However, a close inspection of the evidence suggests that deficits in language expression are typically accompanied by limitations in language knowledge or difficulties processing language input. For this reason, the diagnostic category of expressive language disorder should be used with considerable caution. This view has implications for both research and clinical practice.

Order a Subscription
Pay Per View
Entire American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology content & archive
24-hour access
This Article
24-hour access

Related Articles

Sensitivity and Specificity of French Language and Processing Measures for the Identification of Primary Language Impairment at Age 5
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research April 2011, Vol.54, 580-597. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2010/09-0196)
Language Deficits in Poor Comprehenders: A Case for the Simple View of Reading
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research April 2006, Vol.49, 278-293. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2006/023)
Identifying Language Comprehension Impairment in Preschool Children
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools January 2008, Vol.39, 54-65. doi:10.1044/0161-1461(2008/006)
The Power of Negative Findings
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools July 2012, Vol.43, 251-252. doi:10.1044/0161-1461(2012/ed-03)
The Diagnostic and Predictive Validity of The Renfrew Bus Story
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools October 2007, Vol.38, 390-399. doi:10.1044/0161-1461(2007/040)