Explaining Lexical–Semantic Deficits in Specific Language Impairment: The Role of Phonological Similarity, Phonological Working Memory, and Lexical Competition PurposeIn this study, the authors investigated potential explanations for sparse lexical–semantic representations in children with specific language impairment (SLI) and typically developing peers. The role of auditory perception, phonological working memory, and lexical competition were investigated.MethodParticipants included 32 children (ages 8;5–12;3 [years;months]): Sixteen children with SLI and 16 typically developing ... Article
Article  |   December 01, 2010
Explaining Lexical–Semantic Deficits in Specific Language Impairment: The Role of Phonological Similarity, Phonological Working Memory, and Lexical Competition
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Elina Mainela-Arnold
    The Pennsylvania State University, University Park
  • Julia L. Evans
    San Diego State University and University of California San Diego
  • Jeffry A. 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 / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Language
Article   |   December 01, 2010
Explaining Lexical–Semantic Deficits in Specific Language Impairment: The Role of Phonological Similarity, Phonological Working Memory, and Lexical Competition
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 2010, Vol. 53, 1742-1756. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2010/08-0198)
History: Received September 22, 2008 , Revised April 27, 2009 , Accepted April 30, 2010
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 2010, Vol. 53, 1742-1756. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2010/08-0198)
History: Received September 22, 2008; Revised April 27, 2009; Accepted April 30, 2010
Web of Science® Times Cited: 24

PurposeIn this study, the authors investigated potential explanations for sparse lexical–semantic representations in children with specific language impairment (SLI) and typically developing peers. The role of auditory perception, phonological working memory, and lexical competition were investigated.

MethodParticipants included 32 children (ages 8;5–12;3 [years;months]): Sixteen children with SLI and 16 typically developing age- and nonverbal IQ–matched peers (CA). Children’s word definitions were investigated. The words to be defined were manipulated for phonological neighborhood density. Nonword repetition and two lexical competition measures were tested as predictors of word definition abilities.

ResultsChildren with SLI gave word definitions with fewer content details than children in the CA group. Compared with the CA group, the definitions of children in the SLI group were not disproportionately impacted by phonological neighborhood density. Lexical competition was a significant unique predictor of children’s word definitions, but nonword repetition was not.

ConclusionsIndividual differences in richness of lexical semantic representations as well as differences between children with SLI and typically developing peers may—at least, in part—be explained by processes of competition. However, difficulty with auditory perception or phonological working memory does not fully explain difficulties in lexical semantics.

Acknowledgments
This research was supported by National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders Grants F31 DC 6536 (Principal Investigator: Elina Mainela-Arnold) and R01 DC 5650 (Principal Investigator: Julia Evans). Parts of this research were reported in the first author’s doctoral dissertation at the University of Wisconsin—Madison.
We thank Lisbeth Heilmann for her assistance in collecting the data. We also thank Bridgett Coombs, Megan Fleischer, Rachael Hyman, Matthew Keeler, Alina Koptsiovsky, Megan Luteran, Marjorie Maack, and Lauren Nardozzi for their assistance in coding the data. We thank Martha Alibali, Maryellen MacDonald, Lynn Turkstra, and Susan Ellis Weismer for their helpful comments at different stages of this research. Finally, we are most grateful to the parents and children who participated in the study.
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