Semester of Graduation

Spring 2020


Master of Arts (MA)


Communication Sciences and Disorders

Document Type



Background: Children with specific language impairment (SLI) have recently been suggested to have subclinical deficits in executive function skills. The current study seeks to better understand these deficits by exploring the role of nonverbal working memory in word learning and statistical learning in this population. Method: Participants included typically developing children along with children with SLI ranging from ages 8-12 years old. Word learning was assessed using a fast-mapping task, statistical learning was measured using a word-segmentation task, and nonverbal working memory was measured using an N-back task. Results: A significant difference was found between children’s segmentation accuracy scores. Variance in segmentation accuracy scores were predicted by group according to a linear regression model. No significant difference was found in fast-mapping scores or nonverbal working memory scores, although significant correlations were observed between fast-mapping and segmentation accuracy scores, raw receptive vocabulary scores, and CELF-4 receptive language scores. Nonverbal working memory correlated with raw receptive vocabulary scores, expressive language scores, and core language scores. Discussion: We caution our readers to interpret our findings carefully, as there are discrepancies from similar studies completed previously. Our results do support the notion that working memory profiles can vary across children, intersecting language skills and modulating performance in word learning. While no association was found between nonverbal working memory and our experimental tasks, a relationship may be observed if a similar study were performed using a verbal working memory task.

Committee Chair

Haebig, Eileen