Children with specific language impairment: Linguistic impairment or short-term memory deficit?

H. K.J. Van der Lely*, D. Howard

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Citations (Scopus)


This study is concerned with characteristics of short-term memory (STM) in children with specific language impairment (SLI). The linguistic requirements of the test procedure, the characteristics of the test materials, and the development of linguistic representations were considered. Two experimental tasks were used: a verbal-repetition and a picture-pointing procedure. The tasks used auditory presentation and were designed to explore different underlying processes during immediate recall. The linguistic characteristics of the test materials were designed to explore the influence of semantic, lexical, and phonological factors on STM. Six SLI children (aged 6:1 to 9:6) (years:months) were individually matched on comprehension and expression of language to 17 younger children (age 3:4 to 6:5). Both groups were differentially influenced by the materials as a function of the test procedure. In general, both group and individual analyses found no significant difference between the performance of the SLI children and language-age (LA) controls. The implications of the results in relation to previous findings from investigations of STM and the underlying cause of SLI in children are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1193-1207
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Speech and Hearing Research
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1993
Externally publishedYes


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