Children’s comprehension of object relative sentences: It’s extant language knowledge that matters, not domain-general working memory

Yazmin Ahmad Rusli, James W. Montgomery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Purpose: The aim of this study was to determine whether extant language (lexical) knowledge or domain-general working memory is the better predictor of comprehension of object relative sentences for children with typical development. We hypothesized that extant language knowledge, not domain-general working memory, is the better predictor. Method: Fifty-three children (ages 9–11 years) completed a word-level verbal working-memory task, indexing extant language (lexical) knowledge; an analog nonverbal working-memory task, representing domain-general working memory; and a hybrid sentence comprehension task incorporating elements of both agent selection and cross-modal picture-priming paradigms. Images of the agent and patient were displayed at the syntactic gap in the object relative sentences, and the children were asked to select the agent of the sentence. Results: Results of general linear modeling revealed that extant language knowledge accounted for a unique 21.3% of variance in the children’s object relative sentence comprehension over and above age (8.3%). Domain-general working memory accounted for a nonsignificant 1.6% of variance. Conclusions: We interpret the results to suggest that extant language knowledge and not domain-general working memory is a critically important contributor to children’s object relative sentence comprehension. Results support a connectionist view of the association between working memory and object relative sentence comprehension.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2865-2878
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Volume60
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017
Externally publishedYes

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Short-Term Memory
comprehension
Language
language
Working Memory
Proxy
indexing
paradigm
Sentence Comprehension

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing

Cite this

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title = "Children’s comprehension of object relative sentences: It’s extant language knowledge that matters, not domain-general working memory",
abstract = "Purpose: The aim of this study was to determine whether extant language (lexical) knowledge or domain-general working memory is the better predictor of comprehension of object relative sentences for children with typical development. We hypothesized that extant language knowledge, not domain-general working memory, is the better predictor. Method: Fifty-three children (ages 9–11 years) completed a word-level verbal working-memory task, indexing extant language (lexical) knowledge; an analog nonverbal working-memory task, representing domain-general working memory; and a hybrid sentence comprehension task incorporating elements of both agent selection and cross-modal picture-priming paradigms. Images of the agent and patient were displayed at the syntactic gap in the object relative sentences, and the children were asked to select the agent of the sentence. Results: Results of general linear modeling revealed that extant language knowledge accounted for a unique 21.3{\%} of variance in the children’s object relative sentence comprehension over and above age (8.3{\%}). Domain-general working memory accounted for a nonsignificant 1.6{\%} of variance. Conclusions: We interpret the results to suggest that extant language knowledge and not domain-general working memory is a critically important contributor to children’s object relative sentence comprehension. Results support a connectionist view of the association between working memory and object relative sentence comprehension.",
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