Non-word repetition in children with specific language impairment: A deficit in phonological working memory or in long-term verbal knowledge?

Claudia Casalini, Daniel Brizzolara, Anna Chilosi, Paola Cipriani, Stefania Marcolini, Chiara Pecini, Silvia Roncoli, Cristina Burani

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In this study we investigated the effects of long-term memory (LTM) verbal knowledge on short-term memory (STM) verbal recall in a sample of Italian children affected by different subtypes of specific language impairment (SLI). The aim of the study was to evaluate if phonological working memory (PWM) abilities of SLI children can be supported by LTM linguistic representations and if PWM performances can be differently affected in the various subtypes of SLI. We tested a sample of 54 children affected by Mixed Receptive-Expressive (RE), Expressive (Ex) and Phonological (Ph) SLI (DSM-IV - American Psychiatric Association, 1994) by means of a repetition task of words (W) and non-words (NW) differing in morphemic structure [morphological non-words (MNW), consisting of combinations of roots and affixes - and simple non-words - with no morphological constituency]. We evaluated the effects of lexical and morpho-lexical LTM representations on STM recall by comparing the repetition accuracy across the three types of stimuli. Results indicated that although SLI children, as a group, showed lower repetition scores than controls, their performance was affected similarly to controls by the type of stimulus and the experimental manipulation of the non-words (better repetition of W than MNW and NW, and of MNW than NW), confirming the recourse to LTM verbal representations to support STM recall. The influence of LTM verbal knowledge on STM recall in SLI improved with age and did not differ among the three types of SLI. However, the three types of SLI differed in the accuracy of their repetition performances (PMW abilities), with the Phonological group showing the best scores. The implications for SLI theory and practice are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)769-776
Number of pages8
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • Long-term lexical knowledge
  • Non-word repetition
  • Phonological working memory
  • Specific language impairment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Neuroscience(all)


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