The Relationship Between Phonological Memory, Receptive Vocabulary, and Fast Mapping in Young Children With Specific Language Impairment

Gray, Shelley
October 2006
Journal of Speech, Language & Hearing Research;Oct2006, Vol. 49 Issue 5, p955
Academic Journal
Purpose: This study assessed the fast mapping performance of children with specific language impairment (SLI) across the preschool to kindergarten age span in relation to their phonological memory and vocabulary development. Method: Fifty-three children diagnosed with SLI and 53 children with normal language (NL) matched for age and gender (30 three-year-olds, 18 four-year-olds, 28 five-year-olds, and 30 six-year-olds) participated. Children's phonological memory was assessed using nonword repetition and digit span tasks. Receptive vocabulary was assessed using the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test--III. Children learned the names for 8 objects during 2 fast mapping tasks. Results: Overall, the NL group demonstrated significantly better performance on phonological memory and vocabulary measures across the age span; however, performance on the fast mapping task differed significantly only at age 5. Phonological memory and existing receptive vocabulary did not predict fast mapping ability. Conclusions: The phonological memory skills of preschoolers with NL and SLI followed a similar developmental pattern, but the SLI group consistently scored significantly lower than the NL group. Overall, the NL group showed significantly better receptive vocabulary, with evidence that between-group differences increased at age 6. Neither short-term phonological memory nor receptive vocabulary predicted fast mapping comprehension or production performance, even though both have been shown to correlate with later stages of word learning.


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