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Int J Lang Commun Disord. 2000 Jan-Mar;35(1):95-116.

Limitations in working memory: implications for language development.

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University of Manchester, UK.


In this study, the proposal that individual differences in spoken language acquisition may be due to limitations in short-term memory abilities was investigated within a working memory framework. The relationship speech production skills and working memory abilities was examined in two groups of 4-year-old children, matched for non-verbal ability but who had either relatively good or poor non-word repetition skills. Children with better non-word repetition skills produced speech that comprised a wider repertoire of words, on average longer utterances and a greater range of syntactic constructions than did children with relatively poor non-word repetition skills. The significant association found between these indices of language development and verbal short-term memory span assessed with non-spoken recall, suggested that this relationship was not merely due to the common output requirements of the language and memory tasks. Inconsistent associations between language performance and two tasks of visuo-spatial short-term memory precluded firm conclusions being drawn regarding the specificity of the relationship to the phonological domain. Cognitive mechanisms that may underlie the association between spoken language development and working memory skills are discussed.

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