Complex Sentence Comprehension and Working Memory in Children With Specific Language Impairment Purpose: This study investigated the association of 2 mechanisms of working memory (phonological short-term memory [PSTM], attentional resource capacity/allocation) with the sentence comprehension of school-age children with specific language impairment (SLI) and 2 groups of control children.Method: Twenty-four children with SLI, 18 age-matched (CA) children, and 16 language- ... Article
Article  |   April 2009
Complex Sentence Comprehension and Working Memory in Children With Specific Language Impairment
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • James W. Montgomery
    Ohio University, Athens
  • Julia L. Evans
    San Diego State University, CA
  • Contact author: James W. Montgomery, Grover W231, Hearing, Speech, and Language Sciences, Ohio University, Athens, OH 45701. E-mail: montgoj1@ohio.edu.
  • © 2009 American Speech-Language-Hearing AssociationAmerican Speech-Language-Hearing Association
Article Information
Language Disorders / Specific Language Impairment / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Language
Article   |   April 2009
Complex Sentence Comprehension and Working Memory in Children With Specific Language Impairment
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, April 2009, Vol. 52, 269-288. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2008/07-0116)
History: Received June 2, 2007 , Revised November 18, 2007 , Accepted July 7, 2008
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, April 2009, Vol. 52, 269-288. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2008/07-0116)
History: Received June 2, 2007; Revised November 18, 2007; Accepted July 7, 2008
Web of Science® Times Cited: 47

Purpose: This study investigated the association of 2 mechanisms of working memory (phonological short-term memory [PSTM], attentional resource capacity/allocation) with the sentence comprehension of school-age children with specific language impairment (SLI) and 2 groups of control children.

Method: Twenty-four children with SLI, 18 age-matched (CA) children, and 16 language- and memory-matched (LMM) children completed a nonword repetition task (PSTM), the competing language processing task (CLPT; resource capacity/allocation), and a sentence comprehension task comprising complex and simple sentences.

Results: (1) The SLI group performed worse than the CA group on each memory task; (2) all 3 groups showed comparable simple sentence comprehension, but for complex sentences, the SLI and LMM groups performed worse than the CA group; (3) for the SLI group, (a) CLPT correlated with complex sentence comprehension, and (b) nonword repetition correlated with simple sentence comprehension; (4) for CA children, neither memory variable correlated with either sentence type; and (5) for LMM children, only CLPT correlated with complex sentences.

Conclusions: Comprehension of both complex and simple grammar by school-age children with SLI is a mentally demanding activity, requiring significant working memory resources.

Acknowledgments
The research reported in this article was supported by National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders Grant R01 DC005650-01 to Julia L. Evans and by National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Grant P30 HD03352 to the Waisman Center. We thank Lisbeth Simon and Karen Ockuly for their assistance in collecting the data. Finally, we are most grateful to the parents and children who participated in the study.
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