Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communication Sciences and Disorders

First Advisor

Janna B. Oetting


A storybook task was used to examine the word learning abilities of children with and without specific language impairment (SLI). Speech rate, sentence complexity and word type were manipulated within the narrative. A nonword repetition task also was used to examine the relation between working memory and word learning. Fifty-four children participated; a third were classified as SLI and the others served as either age-matched or language-matched controls. For comprehension, a significant main effect for word type was observed with verb scores higher than noun scores. Main effects for group, race, and rate also were observed and these were qualified by two significant two-way interactions (group by race and group by rate). Follow-up analyses revealed that group differences were observed for the European-American children only. Also, presentation rate affected the word learning abilities of the children with SLI but not those of the controls. Results obtained for the production probe were similar to those found for comprehension; however, regardless of race, children with SLI performed more poorly than the age-matched controls, and presentation rate was not found to influence word learning. Group differences were present on nonword repetition, as were syllable length effects. Correlational analysis revealed that children's performance on several standardized language tests and the nonword repetition task were correlated to both word learning tasks. Further analysis found that children's receptive word knowledge as assessed by raw scores from the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT) had a role in their nonword repetition performance. In addition, regression analysis indicated that the children's performance on the nonword repetition task did not contribute significantly to their word learning scores once variance related to the PPVT was removed.