Verbal Working Memory and Sentence Comprehension in Children With Specific Language Impairment

Montgomery, James W.
April 2000
Journal of Speech, Language & Hearing Research;Apr2000, Vol. 43 Issue 2, p293
Academic Journal
In this study we examined the influence of verbal working memory on sentence comprehension in children with SLI. Twelve children with SLI, 12 normally developing children matched for age (CA), and 12 children matched for receptive vocabulary (VM) completed two tasks. In the verbal working memory task, children recalled as many real words as possible under three processing load conditions (i.e., no-load condition; single-load condition, where words were recalled according to physical size of word referents; and dual-load condition, where words were recalled by semantic category and physical size of word referents). In the sentence comprehension task, children listened to linguistically nonredundant (shorter) and linguistically redundant (longer) sentences. Results of the memory task showed that the children with SLI recalled fewer words in the dual-load condition than their CA peers, who showed no condition effect. The SLI and VM groups performed similarly overall, but both groups showed poorer recall in the dual-load condition than in the other conditions. On the sentence comprehension task, children with SLI comprehended fewer sentences of both types than the CA children and fewer redundant sentences relative to themselves and to the VM children. Results were interpreted to suggest that children with SLI (a) have less functional verbal working memory capacity (i.e., ability to coordinate both storage and processing functions) than their CA peers and (b) have greater difficulty managing both their working memory abilities and general processing resources than both age peers and younger children when performing a "complex" off-line sentence processing task.


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