The Role of Memory in Processing Relative Clauses in Children With Specific Language Impairment Purpose This study investigated the relationship between 2 components of memory—phonological short-term memory (pSTM) and working memory (WM)—and the control of relative clause constructions in children with specific language impairment (SLI). Method Children with SLI and 2 control groups—an age-matched and a younger group of children with typical ... Research Article
Research Article  |   February 01, 2015
The Role of Memory in Processing Relative Clauses in Children With Specific Language Impairment
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Pauline Frizelle
    University College Cork, Ireland
  • Paul Fletcher
    University College Cork, Ireland
  • Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication.
    Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication.×
  • Correspondence to Pauline Frizelle: p.frizelle@ucc.ie
  • Editor: Krista Wilkinson
    Editor: Krista Wilkinson×
  • Associate Editor: Julie Wolter
    Associate Editor: Julie Wolter×
Article Information
Development / Language Disorders / Specific Language Impairment / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Research Articles
Research Article   |   February 01, 2015
The Role of Memory in Processing Relative Clauses in Children With Specific Language Impairment
American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, February 2015, Vol. 24, 47-59. doi:10.1044/2014_AJSLP-13-0153
History: Received January 6, 2014 , Revised June 6, 2014 , Accepted October 12, 2014
 
American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, February 2015, Vol. 24, 47-59. doi:10.1044/2014_AJSLP-13-0153
History: Received January 6, 2014; Revised June 6, 2014; Accepted October 12, 2014

Purpose This study investigated the relationship between 2 components of memory—phonological short-term memory (pSTM) and working memory (WM)—and the control of relative clause constructions in children with specific language impairment (SLI).

Method Children with SLI and 2 control groups—an age-matched and a younger group of children with typical development—repeated sentences, including relative clauses, representing 5 syntactic roles and 2 levels of matrix clause complexity. The Working Memory Test Battery for Children was administered.

Results All 3 groups showed significant associations between pSTM and both types of matrix clause construction. For children with SLI, significant associations emerged between (a) WM and more complex matrix clause constructions, (b) WM and relative clauses including a range of syntactic roles, and (c) pSTM and the least difficult syntactic role. In contrast, the age-matched control group could repeat almost all syntactic roles without invoking the use of either memory component.

Conclusions The role of pSTM and WM in the production of relative clauses by children with SLI is influenced by the degree of difficulty of the structure to be recalled. In therapy, the effect of WM limitations can be minimized by approaching each structure within the context of a simple matrix clause.

Acknowledgments
This work represents a part of the first author's dissertation research in the Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, University College Cork, and was funded by a fellowship from the Irish Health Research Board. Thanks are due to the children, families, and schools that helped make this research possible. We are also grateful to Michael Garman and Emma Gleeson for assistance with reliability.
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