Beyond Capacity Limitations II: Effects of Lexical Processes on Word Recall in Verbal Working Memory Tasks in Children With and Without Specific Language Impairment PurposeThis study investigated the impact of lexical processes on target word recall in sentence span tasks in children with and without specific language impairment (SLI).MethodParticipants were 42 children (ages 8;2–12;3 [years;months]): 21 with SLI and 21 typically developing peers matched on age and nonverbal IQ. Children completed a sentence span ... Article
Article  |   December 01, 2010
Beyond Capacity Limitations II: Effects of Lexical Processes on Word Recall in Verbal Working Memory Tasks in Children With and Without Specific Language Impairment
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Elina Mainela-Arnold
    The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA
  • Julia L. Evans
    San Diego State University, San Diego, CA, and University of California, San Diego
  • Jeffry Coady
    Boston University, Boston, MA
  • Contact author: Elina Mainela-Arnold, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Pennsylvania State University, 308 Ford Building, University Park, PA 16802-3100. E-mail: ezm3@psu.edu.
Article Information
Language Disorders / Specific Language Impairment / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Language
Article   |   December 01, 2010
Beyond Capacity Limitations II: Effects of Lexical Processes on Word Recall in Verbal Working Memory Tasks in Children With and Without Specific Language Impairment
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 2010, Vol. 53, 1656-1672. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2010/08-0240)
History: Received November 17, 2008 , Revised June 13, 2009 , Accepted March 21, 2010
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 2010, Vol. 53, 1656-1672. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2010/08-0240)
History: Received November 17, 2008; Revised June 13, 2009; Accepted March 21, 2010
Web of Science® Times Cited: 19

PurposeThis study investigated the impact of lexical processes on target word recall in sentence span tasks in children with and without specific language impairment (SLI).

MethodParticipants were 42 children (ages 8;2–12;3 [years;months]): 21 with SLI and 21 typically developing peers matched on age and nonverbal IQ. Children completed a sentence span task in which target words to be recalled varied in word frequency and neighborhood density. Two measures of lexical processes were examined: the number of nontarget competitor words activated during a gating task (lexical cohort competition) and word definitions.

ResultsNeighborhood density had no effect on word recall for either group. However, both groups recalled significantly more high- than low-frequency words. Lexical cohort competition and specificity of semantic representations accounted for unique variance in the number of target word recalled in the SLI and chronological age-matched (CA) groups combined.

ConclusionsPerformance on verbal working memory span tasks for both SLI and CA children is influenced by word frequency, lexical cohorts, and semantic representations. Future studies need to examine the extent to which verbal working memory capacity is a cognitive construct independent of extant language knowledge representations.

Acknowledgments
We thank Lisbeth Heilmann for her assistance in collecting the data and Matthew Keeler for assistance in coding the data. We also thank Maryellen MacDonald, Martha Alibali, Susan Ellis Weismer, and Lynn Turkstra for their helpful comments at early stages of this research. We thank Bruce Tomblin and Laurence Leonard for discussions on the topic of the premises of working memory theories of SLI, and Carol Miller for comments on the manuscript. Finally, we are most grateful to the parents and children who participated in the study. Parts of this research were reported in the first author’s doctoral dissertation at the University of Wisconsin—Madison. This research was supported by two grants from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (Grant F31 DC 6536, Elina Mainela-Arnold, principal investigator, and Grant R01 DC 5650-01, Julia Evans, principal investigator).
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