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.
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: Accepted 07 Jul 2008 , Received 02 Jun 2007 , Revised 18 Nov 2007
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research April 2009, Vol.52, 269-288. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2008/07-0116)
History: Accepted 07 Jul 2008 , Received 02 Jun 2007 , Revised 18 Nov 2007

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.

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