Statistical Learning in Children With Specific Language Impairment Purpose In this study, the authors examined (a) whether children with specific language impairment (SLI) can implicitly compute the probabilities of adjacent sound sequences, (b) if this ability is related to degree of exposure, (c) if it is domain specific or domain general and, (d) if it is related to ... Research Article
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Research Article  |   April 01, 2009
Statistical Learning in Children With Specific Language Impairment
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Julia L. Evans
    San Diego State University
  • Jenny R. Saffran
    University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • Kathryn Robe-Torres
    University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • Contact author: Julia L. Evans, School of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, San Diego State University, 5500 Campanile Drive, San Diego, CA 92182-1518. E-mail: jevans@mail.sdsu.edu.
  • Kathryn Robe-Torres is now with The Therapy S.P.O.T., Pearland, TX. E-mail: robee14@yahoo.com.
    Kathryn Robe-Torres is now with The Therapy S.P.O.T., Pearland, TX. E-mail: robee14@yahoo.com.×
Article Information
Development / Language Disorders / Specific Language Impairment / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   April 01, 2009
Statistical Learning in Children With Specific Language Impairment
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, April 2009, Vol. 52, 321-335. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2009/07-0189)
History: Received August 13, 2007 , Accepted July 29, 2008
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, April 2009, Vol. 52, 321-335. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2009/07-0189)
History: Received August 13, 2007; Accepted July 29, 2008
Web of Science® Times Cited: 146

Purpose In this study, the authors examined (a) whether children with specific language impairment (SLI) can implicitly compute the probabilities of adjacent sound sequences, (b) if this ability is related to degree of exposure, (c) if it is domain specific or domain general and, (d) if it is related to vocabulary.

Method Children with SLI and normal language controls (ages 6;5–14;4 [years;months]) listened to 21 min of a language in which transitional probabilities within words were higher than those between words. In a second study, children with SLI and Age–Nonverbal IQ matched controls (8;0–10;11) listened to the same language for 42 min and to a second 42 min “tone” language containing the identical statistical structure as the “speech” language.

Results After 21 min, the SLI group’s performance was at chance, whereas performance for the control group was significantly greater than chance and significantly correlated with receptive and expressive vocabulary knowledge. In the 42-minute speech condition, the SLI group’s performance was significantly greater than chance and correlated with receptive vocabulary but was no different from chance in the analogous 42-minute tone condition. Performance for the control group was again significantly greater than chance in 42-minute speech and tone conditions.

Conclusions These findings suggest that poor implicit learning may underlie aspects of the language impairments in SLI.

Acknowledgments
This work was supported by National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) Grant R0105263, awarded to the first author; from National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Grant R01HD37466, awarded to the second author; and from NICHD Grant P30HD03352, awarded to the Waisman Center. We thank Lisbeth Simon-Heilmann, Karin Phillips, and Kristen Ryan for their assistance with this research. We also thank the children and the families who generously contributed their time.
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