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.
Article Information
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: Received August 27, 2008 , Accepted October 21, 2008
American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, May 2009, Vol. 18, 115-123. doi:10.1044/1058-0360(2008/08-0064)
History: Received August 27, 2008; Accepted October 21, 2008
Web of Science® Times Cited: 12

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.

Acknowledgments
This work was supported in part by National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders Grant R01 DC00458. Many thanks to Patricia Deevy and Jeanette S. Leonard for their very helpful comments on earlier versions of this article.
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