Beyond Capacity Limitations Determinants of Word Recall Performance on Verbal Working Memory Span Tasks in Children With SLI Research Note
Research Note  |   August 01, 2005
Beyond Capacity Limitations
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Elina Mainela-Arnold
    Waisman Research Center, University of Wisconsin—Madison
  • Julia L. Evans
    Waisman Research Center, University of Wisconsin—Madison
Article Information
Language Disorders / Specific Language Impairment / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Language / Research Note
Research Note   |   August 01, 2005
Beyond Capacity Limitations
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, August 2005, Vol. 48, 897-909. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2005/062)
History: Received March 26, 2004 , Revised August 6, 2004 , Accepted November 30, 2004
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, August 2005, Vol. 48, 897-909. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2005/062)
History: Received March 26, 2004; Revised August 6, 2004; Accepted November 30, 2004
Web of Science® Times Cited: 44

Reduced verbal working memory capacity has been proposed as a possible account of language impairments in specific language impairment (SLI). Studies have shown, however, that differences in strength of linguistic representations in the form of word frequency affect list recall and performance on verbal working memory tasks. This suggests that verbal memory capacity and long-term linguistic knowledge may not be distinct constructs. It has been suggested that linguistic representations in SLI are weak in ways that result in a breakdown in language processing on tasks that require manipulation of unfamiliar material. In this study, the effects of word frequency, long-term linguistic knowledge, and serial order position on recall performance in the competing language processing task (CLPT) were investigated in 10 children with SLI and 10 age-matched peers (age 8 years 6 months to 12 years 4 months). The children with SLI recalled significantly fewer target words on the CLPT as compared with their age-matched controls. The SLI group did not differ, however, in their ability to recall target words having high word frequency but were significantly poorer in their ability to recall words on the CLPT having low word frequency. Differences in receptive and expressive language abilities also appeared closely related to performance on the CLPT, suggesting that working memory capacity is not distinct from language knowledge and that degraded linguistic representations may have an effect on performance on verbal working memory span tasks in children with SLI.

Acknowledgments
This research was supported by three grants: two from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (R01 DC 5650-01, Julia Evans, principal investigator, and F31 DC 6536-01, Elina Mainela-Arnold, principal investigator) and one from the Spencer Foundation (S133-DK59, Julia Evans, principal investigator). We thank Lisbeth Simon, Kristin Ryan, Jeffry Coady, Miggie Manhei Shum, and Adria Leno for their assistance at different stages of this study; Martha Alibali, Maryellen MacDonald, and Jeffry Coady for helpful discussions; and children and parents in the greater Madison metropolitan area for their time and effort in participating in the study.
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