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J Speech Lang Hear Res. 2003 Oct;46(5):1138-53.

Working memory capacity and language processes in children with specific language impairment.

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Department of Speech Communication Arts and Sciences, Brooklyn College, City University of New York, 11210, USA.


This study examined the interaction between working memory and language comprehension in children with specific language impairment (SLI), focusing on the function of the central executive component and its interaction with the phonological loop (A. D. Baddeley, 1986) in complex working memory tasks. Thirteen children with SLI and 13 age-matched (age range = 7;0 [years;months] to 10;0) children with typical language development participated. The tasks combined traditional nonword repetition tests and sentence comprehension by using sentences that differed in length and syntactic complexity. The children with SLI exhibited larger processing and attentional capacity limitations than their age-matched peers. Increased word length and syntactic complexity resulted in a large performance decrease in nonword repetition in both groups. There were some variations in the error pattern, which may indicate qualitative differences between the 2 groups. The performance of the children with SLI in nonword repetition, across the different tasks, indicated a limitation in simultaneous processing rather than difficulty in encoding and analyzing the phonological structure of the nonwords. Furthermore, syntactic complexity had a greater effect on performance accuracy than did sentence length.

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