Journal of Psycholinguistic Research

, Volume 37, Issue 5, pp 331–354 | Cite as

Role of Working Memory in Typically Developing Children’s Complex Sentence Comprehension

  • James W. Montgomery
  • Beula M. Magimairaj
  • Michelle H. O’Malley
Original Article

Abstract

The influence of three mechanisms of working memory (phonological short-term memory (PSTM capacity), attentional resource control/allocation, and processing speed) on children’s complex (and simple) sentence comprehension was investigated. Fifty two children (6–12 years) completed a nonword repetition task (indexing PSTM), concurrent verbal processing-storage task (indexing resource control/allocation), auditory-visual reaction time (RT) task (indexing processing speed), and a sentence comprehension task that included complex and simple sentences. Correlation and regression analyses were run to determine the association between the memory variables and sentence comprehension accuracy. Results revealed: (1) none of the memory variables correlated with simple sentence comprehension, (2) resource control/allocation and processing speed correlated significantly with complex sentence comprehension, even after covarying for age, and (3) attentional functioning and processing speed predicted complex sentence comprehension (after accounting for age). Results were interpreted to suggest that working memory is significantly involved in school age children’s comprehension of familiar complex sentence structures.

Keywords

Children Working memory Complex sentences Sentence comprehension 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Adams A., Bourke L., Willis C. (1999) Working memory and spoken language comprehension in young children. International Journal of Psychology 34: 364–373CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. American National Standards Institute (1990). Specifications of audiometers (ANSI S3.6-1989). New York: ANSI.Google Scholar
  3. Baddeley A. (1990) Human memory. Lawrence Erlbaum, LondonGoogle Scholar
  4. Baddeley A. (1999) Essentials of human memory. Psychological Press Ltd, East SussexGoogle Scholar
  5. Baddeley A. (2000) The episodic buffer: New component of working memory?. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 4: 417–423PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Baddeley A. (2002) Fractionating the central executive. In: Stuss D., Knight R.(eds) Principles of frontal lobe function. Oxford University Press, New York, pp 246–260Google Scholar
  7. Baddeley A. (2003) Working memory and language: An overview. Journal of Communication Disorders 36: 189–208PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Barrouillet P., Camos V. (2001) Developmental increase in working memory span: Resource sharing or temporal decay?. Journal of Memory and Language 45: 1–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bayliss D., Jarrold C., Baddeley A., Gunn D., Leigh E. (2005) Mapping the developmental constraints on working memory span performance. Developmental Psychology 41: 579–597PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bishop D. (2003) Test of Reception of Grammar-2. The Psychological Corporation, London, UKGoogle Scholar
  11. Bishop D., Bright P., James C., Bishop S., van der Lely H. (2000) Grammatical SLI: A distinct subtype of developmental language impairment?. Applied Psycholinguistics 21: 159–181CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bowers J., Vigliocco G., Stadthagen-Gonzalez H., Vinson D. (1999) Distinguishing language from thought: Experimental evidence that syntax is lexically rather than conceptually represented. Psychological Science 10: 310–315CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Brown L., Sherbenou R., Johnsen S. (1997) Test of Nonverbal Intelligence-3. PRO-ED, Austin, TXGoogle Scholar
  14. Caplan D., Waters G. (1999) Verbal working memory capacity and language comprehension. Behavioral and Brain Science 22: 114–126CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Chen E., Gibson E., Wolf F. (2005) Online syntactic storage costs in sentence comprehension. Journal of Memory and Language 52: 144–169CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Chomsky N. (1995) The Minimalist Program. MIT Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  17. Christiansen M., MacDonald M. (1999) Fractionated working memory: Even in pebbles it’s still a soup stone. Behavioral and Brain Science 22: 97–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Cohen J. (1983) Applied multiple regression/correlation analysis for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed). Lawrence Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJGoogle Scholar
  19. Conlin J., Gathercole S., Adams J. (2005) Children’s working memory: Investigating performance limitations complex span tasks. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 90: 303–317PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Cowan, N. (1995). Attention and memory: An integrated framework. Oxford Psychology Series, No. 26. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Cowan N., Elliot E., Saults S., Morey C., Maddox S., Hismjatullina A. et al (2005) the capacity of attention: Its estimation and its role in working memory and cognitive aptitudes. Cognitive Psychology 51: 42–100PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Cowan N., Nugent L., Elliott E., Ponomarev I., Saults S. (1999) The role of attention in the development of short-term memory: Age differences in the verbal span of apprehension. Child Development 70: 1082–1097PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Cutler A., Norris D. (1988) The role of strong syllables in segmentation for lexical access. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 14(113–121): 14, 113–121Google Scholar
  24. Daneman M., Carpenter P. (1980) Individual differences in working memory and reading. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 19: 450–466CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Daneman M., Carpenter P. (1983) Individual differences in integrating information between and within sentences. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 9(9): 561–584CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Daneman M., Merikle P. (1996) Working memory and language comprehension: A meta-analysis. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 3: 422–433Google Scholar
  27. DeVilliers J., DeVilliers P. (1973) Development of the use of word order in comprehension. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research 2: 331–342CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Dick F., Wulfeck B., Krupa-Kwiatkowski M., Bates L. (2004) The development of complex sentence interpretation in typically developing children compared with children with specific language impairment or early unilateral focal lesions. Developmental Science 7: 360–377PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Dollaghan C., Biber M., Campbell T. (1993) Constituent syllable effects in a nonsense-word repetition task. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research 36: 1051–1054PubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Dollaghan C., Campbell T. (1998) Nonword repetition and child language impairment. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 41: 1136–1146PubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Dunn L.M., Dunn L.M. (1997) Peabody picture vocabulary test-3. American Guidance Service, Circle Pines, MNGoogle Scholar
  32. Edwards J., Beckman M., Munson B. (2004) The interaction between vocabulary size and phonotactic probability effects on children’s production accuracy and fluency in novel word repetition. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research 47: 421–436CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Ellis Weismer S., Evans J., Hesketh L. (1999) An examination of verbal working memory capacity in children with specific language impairment. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 42: 1249–1260Google Scholar
  34. Ellis Weismer S., Hesketh L. (1993) The influence of prosodic and gestural cues on novel word acquisition by children with specific language impairment. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research 36: 1013–11025Google Scholar
  35. Ellis Weismer S., Thordardottir E. (2002) Cognition and language. In: Accardo P., Rogers B., Capute A.(eds) Disorders of language development. York Press, Inc, Timonium, MD, pp 21–37Google Scholar
  36. Ellis Weismer S., Tomblin B., Zhang X., Buckwalter P., Chynoweth J., Jones M. (2000) Nonword repetition performance in school-age children with and without language impairment. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 43: 865–878Google Scholar
  37. Ferguson A., Bowey J. (2005) Global processing speed as a mediator of developmental changes in children’s auditory memory span. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 91: 89–112PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Fry A., Hale S. (2000) Relationships among processing speed, working memory, and fluid intelligence in children. Psychological Science 7: 237–241CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Gathercole S. (1999) Cognitive approaches to the development of short-term memory. Cognitive Science 3: 410–419CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Gathercole S., Baddeley A. (1990) The role of phonological memory in vocabulary acquisition: A study of young children learning new words. British Journal of Psychology 81: 439–454Google Scholar
  41. Gathercole S., Frankish C., Pickering S., Peaker S. (1999) Phonotactic influences on short-term memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 25(84–95): 25, 84–95Google Scholar
  42. Gathercole S., Pickering S., Ambridge B., Wearing H. (2004) The structure of working memory from 4 to 15 years of age. Developmental Psychology 40: 177–190PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Gathercole S., Pickering S., Knight C., Stegmann Z. (2004) Working memory skills and educational attainment. Applied Cognitive Psychology 18: 1–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Gathercole S., Service E., Hitch G., Adams A., Martin A. (1999) Phonological short-term memory and vocabulary development: Further evidence on the nature of the relationship. Applied Cognitive Psychology 13: 65–77CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Gathercole S., Service E., Hitch G., Martin A. (1997) Phonological short-term memory and new word learning in children. Developmental Psychology 33: 966–979PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Gaulin C., Campbell T. (1994) Procedure for assessing verbal working memory in normal school-age children: Some preliminary data. Perceptual and Motor Skills 79: 55–64PubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Gavens N., Barrouillet P. (2004) Delays of retention, processing efficiency, and attentional resources in working memory span development. Journal of Memory and Language 51: 644–657CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Geary D., Hoard M., Byrd-Craven J., DeSoto M. (2004) Strategy choices in simple and complex addition: Contributions of working memory and counting knowledge for children with mathematical disability. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 88: 121–151PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Goldman, R., & Fristoe, M. (2000). Goldman-Fristoe Test of Articulation-2. MN: Circle Pines. American Guidance Service.Google Scholar
  50. Hale S. (1990) A global developmental trend in cognitive processing speed in children. Child Development 61: 653–663PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Henry L., Millar S. (1991) Memory span increase with age: A test of two hypotheses. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 51: 459–484CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Hulme C., Roodenrys S., Schweickert R., Brown G., Martin S., Stuart G. (1997) Word frequency effects on the short-term memory tasks: Evidence for a redintegration process in immediate serial recall. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 23: 1217–1232PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Jensen A. (1993) Why is processing speed correlated with psychometric g?. Current Directions on Psychological Science 2: 53–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Johnson M. (1997) Developmental cognitive neuroscience. Blackwell Publishers, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  55. Just M., Carpenter P. (1992) A capacity theory of comprehension: Individual differences in working memory. Psychological Review 99: 122–149Google Scholar
  56. Kail R. (1991) Processing time declines exponentially during adolescence. Developmental Psychology 27: 259–266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Kail R. (1992) Processing time, speech rate, and memory. Developmental Psychology 28: 899–904CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Kail R. (2000) Speed of information processing: Developmental change and links to intelligence. Journal of School Psychology 38: 51–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Kail R., Miller C. (2006) Developmental change in processing speed: Domain specificity and stability during childhood and adolescence. Journal of Cognition and Development 7: 119–137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Kail R., Salthouse T. (1994) Processing speed as a mental capacity. Acta Psychologica 86: 199–225PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Kane M., Bleckley M., Conway A., Engle R. (2001) A controlled-attention view of working- memory capacity. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 130: 169–183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Kane M., Conway A., Engle R. (1999) What do working-memory tests really measure? Behavioral and Brain Science 22: 101–102Google Scholar
  63. King J., Just M. (1991) Individual differences in syntactic processing: The role of working memory. Journal of Memory and Language 30: 580–602Google Scholar
  64. MacWhinney B., Pleh C. (1988) The processing of restrictive relative clauses in Hungarian. Cognition 29: 95–141PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Manzini R., Roussou A. (2000) A minimalist theory of A-movement and control. Lingua 110: 409–447CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Maratsos M. (1974) Children who get worse at understanding the passive: A replication of Bever. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research 3: 65–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Marton K., Schwartz R. (2003) Working memory capacity and language processes in children with specific language impairment. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research 46: 1138–1153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Miyake A., Carpenter P., Just M. (1994) A capacity approach to syntactic comprehension disorders: Making normal adults perform like aphasic patients. Cognitive Neuropsychology 11: 671–717CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Moe A., Hopkins C., Rush R. (1982) The vocabulary of first-grade children. Thomas, Springfiled, ILGoogle Scholar
  70. Montgomery J. (1995) Examination of phonological working memory in specifically language impaired children. Applied Psycholinguistics 16: 355–378Google Scholar
  71. Montgomery J. (1995) Sentence comprehension in children with specific language impairment: The role of phonological working memory. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research 38: 187–199PubMedGoogle Scholar
  72. Montgomery J. (2000) Relation of working memory to off-line and real-time sentence processing in children with specific language impairment. Applied Psycholinguistics 21: 117–148CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Montgomery J. (2000) Verbal working memory and sentence comprehension in children with specific language impairment. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 43: 293–308PubMedGoogle Scholar
  74. Montgomery J. (2004) Sentence comprehension in children with specific language impairment: Effects of input rate and phonological working memory. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders 39: 115–134PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Montgomery J. (2005) Effects of input rate and age on the real-time lexical processing of children with specific language impairment. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders 40: 171–188PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Montgomery J., Windsor J. (2007) Examining the language performances of children with and without specific language impairment: Contributions of phonological short-term memory and processing speed. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 50: 778–797PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Munson B., Kurtz B., Windsor J. (2005) The influence of vocabulary size, phonotactic probability, and wordlikeness on nonword repetitions of children with and without language impairment. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 48: 1033–1047PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Norbury C., Bishop D., Briscoe J. (2002) Does impaired grammatical comprehension provide evidence of an innate grammar module?. Applied Psycholinguistics 23: 247–268CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Robbins J., Klee T. (1987) Clinical assessment of oropharyngeal motor development in young children. Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders 52: 271–277PubMedGoogle Scholar
  80. Roberts R., Gibson E. (2002) Individual differences in sentence memory. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research 31: 573–598PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Salthouse T. (1996) The processing-speed theory of adult age differences in cognition. Psychological Review 103: 403–428PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Schneider W., Eschman A., Zuccolott A. (2002) E-Prime user’s guide. Psychology Software Tools Inc, PittsburghGoogle Scholar
  83. Semel E., Wiig E., Secord W. (2003) Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals-4. The Psychological Corporation, San Antonio, TXGoogle Scholar
  84. Tomblin B., Records N., Buckwalter N., Zhang X., Smith E., O’Brien M. (1997) Prevalence of specific language impairment in kindergarten children. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 40: 1245–1260PubMedGoogle Scholar
  85. Towse J., Hitch G., Hutton U. (1998) A reevaluation of working memory capacity in children. Journal of Memory and Language 39: 195–217CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Towse J., Hitch G., Hutton U. (2002) On the nature of the relationship between processing activity and item retention in children. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 82: 156–184PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Tyler A. (1992) Spoken language comprehension: An experimental approach to disordered and normal processing. MIT Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  88. Tyler A., Marslen-Wilson W.D. (1981) Children’s processing of spoken language. Journal of Memory and Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 20: 400–416CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Vallar G., Baddeley A. (1984) Phonological short-term store, phonological processing and sentence comprehension: A neuropsychological case study. Cognitive Neuropsychology 1: 121–141CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. van der Lely H. (1996) Specifically language impaired and normally developing children: Verbal passive vs. adjectival passive sentence interpretation. Lingua 98: 243–272CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. van der Lely H. (1998) SLI in Children: Movement, Economy, and deficits in the computational-syntactic system. Language Acquisition 7: 161–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. van der Lely H., Stollwerck L. (1997) Binding theory and grammatical specific language impairment in children. Cognition 62: 245–290PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Waters G., Caplan D. (2004) Verbal working memory and on-line syntactic processing. Evidence from self-paced listening. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 57: 129–163PubMedGoogle Scholar
  94. Windsor J., Hwang M. (1999) Children’s auditory lexical decisions: A limited processing capacity account of language impairment. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research 42: 990–1002Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • James W. Montgomery
    • 1
  • Beula M. Magimairaj
    • 1
  • Michelle H. O’Malley
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Hearing, Speech and Language Sciences, Grover Center w231Ohio UniversityAthensUSA

Personalised recommendations