Role of auditory non-verbal working memory in sentence repetition for bilingual children with primary language impairment

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Background Sentence repetition performance is attracting increasing interest as a valuable clinical marker for primary (or specific) language impairment (LI) in both monolingual and bilingual populations. Multiple aspects of memory appear to contribute to sentence repetition performance, but non-verbal memory has not yet been considered.

Aims To explore the relationship between a measure of non-verbal auditory working memory (NVWM) and sentence repetition performance in a sample of bilingual children with LI.

Methods & Procedures Forty-seven school-aged Spanish-English bilingual children with LI completed sentence repetition and non-word repetition tasks in both Spanish and English as well as an NVWM task. Hierarchical multiple linear regression was used to predict sentence repetition in each language using age, non-word repetition and NVWM.

Outcomes & Results NVWM predicted unique variance in sentence repetition performance in both languages after accounting for chronological age and language-specific phonological memory, as measured by non-word repetition.

Conclusions & Implications Domain-general memory resources play a unique role in sentence repetition performance in children with LI. Non-verbal working memory weaknesses may contribute to the poor performance of children with LI on sentence repetition tasks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)631-636
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Language and Communication Disorders
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists.


  • Working memory
  • bilingualism
  • developmental language impairment
  • non-linguistic processing
  • school-aged children
  • specific language impairment


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