Spoken Word Recognition in School-Age Children With SLI: Semantic, Phonological, and Repetition Priming

Melinda Velez Richard G. Schwartz
The City University of New York Purpose: The purpose of this study was to contribute to the current understanding of how children with specific language impairment (SLI) organize their mental lexicons. The study examined semantic and phonological priming in children with and without SLI. Method: Thirteen children (7;0–11;3 [years;months]) with SLI and 13 age-matched children with typical language development participated in this study. Prime–target pairs (semantic, phonological, and repetition) were embedded within a running list of words so that the actual pairs were imperceptible. Reaction times to an animacy judgment (alive vs. not alive) were analyzed. The experiment featured 500-ms and 1,000-ms interstimulus intervals (ISIs) between primes and targets. Results: Children with SLI exhibited priming effects in the repetition condition at both ISIs; however, phonological and semantic effects were absent. Typically developing children exhibited effects in the repetition at both ISIs. Semantic and phonological effects were absent at 500 ms ISIs, but present at 1,000 ms ISIs. Conclusions: Although children with SLI have priming mechanisms similar to those of their age-matched peers, the absence of semantic and phonological priming suggests that these connections are not strong enough by themselves to yield priming effects. These findings are discussed in the context of semantic and phonological priming, representation, and generalized slowing. KEY WORDS: semantic priming, phonological priming, word recognition, children, specific language impairment


esearchers in the field of language development have long studied the unique characteristics of specific language impairment (SLI) with the intention of adequately describing the disorder, establishing subclassifications within the disorder, and differentiating the disorder from related cognitive disabilities. Children with SLI display weaknesses in one or more aspects of language production and comprehension across a continuum of linguistic and cognitive processes including phonology, semantics, syntax, and verbal working memory (Leonard, 1998). Deficits in lexical acquisition and development are among the most widely reported characteristics of the disorder. Children with SLI exhibit delays in word learning and production during early language development and deficits in automatic word retrieval and word recognition in later years (e.g., Gray, 2006; Kail, Hale, Leonard, & Nippold, 1984; Lahey & Edwards, 1996, 1999; Munson, Kurtz, & Windsor, 2005; Seiger-Gardner & Schwartz, 2008).

Semantic and Phonological Representation and Lexical Deficits in SLI
Evidence shows that typically developing children acquire new words rapidly through implicit learning in context (Carey & Bartlett, 1978). This
1616 Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research •

Vol. 53 • 1616–1628 • December 2010 • D American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

and word identification may arise from limitations in phonological perception. Metsala & Walley. filter too much semantic information during word learning and thus construct mental representations that lack distinctive features. Multiple factors contribute to efficient word learning. children with SLI have limitations in novel word acquisition reflected in their lack of sensitivity to phonological and semantic features. children with SLI may avoid learning new words that do not share the phonological characteristics of words they have already acquired. Rice.type of incidental word learning is typically referred to as fast mapping. in which children progress from a holistic approach to a phonological processing approach to an incremental. McGregor. and they form fewer associations between words within the mental lexicon. Plunkett. Reilly. In a series of studies. 2001. Alt. they demonstrate weaknesses in word learning. 1998). Buhr. Houston-Price. 2002. vocabulary size. a behavior typical of younger children during early language acquisition (Leonard et al. Rice and colleagues (Rice. and they produced significantly more errors in production. For example. then a word is more difficult to access within the network because there are fewer semantic associations to activate. 1992. As they get older. 2002). Walley. 2005). their ability to access words was much slower than that of their typically developing peers. To summarize. Word recognition is facilitated by words that share the initial phoneme. Rice. verbs. They often fail to detect and use phonological and semantic cues. Seiger-Gardner and Brooks (2008) found that although this restructuring apparently does occur in children with SLI. rapid automatic naming. Edwards and Lahey (1998) argued that this reduced accuracy was evidence of incomplete phonological representation in the mental lexicon. In fact. Plante. & Bode. word recognition is facilitated by the final phonological overlap of rhyming words. Chiat. and /or functions—are missing from a mental representation. & Nemeth. They associate the novel word with familiar words stored in long-term semantic memory and map a semantic representation of the word onto the unique phonological representation. 2002. 1982). evidence shows that children who exhibit naming and recognition errors also produce poorer drawings (visual representations) and inadequate definitions (verbal descriptions) for words (Marinellie & Johnson. 2005. the strength of associations between words within the lexical network. & Creusere. After a 12-week training period. Buhr. McGregor & Appel. If one or more semantic features—including category membership. as in can–cat. As children mature. Words are organized in memory according to their phonological and semantic similarity. 2006. The authors attributed this rapid multiple-word learning to increased activation of the mental lexicon and associative networks. thus allowing for easier access and retrieval.. 2005). it is also Velez & Schwartz: Spoken Word Recognition in SLI 1617 . children who increased their comprehension of a set of frequently practiced novel words were able to quickly learn a second set of words practiced less frequently. Processing failure at the phonological level is another compelling explanation for why children with SLI display limited word-learning ability during early childhood and deficits in word-finding and recognition in later years. and attributes even after repeated exposure. With repeated exposure. Children with SLI may have weak fast-mapping abilities that result in poorly developed semantic representations and weaker connections within the mental lexicon. 2001. children process a unique phonological string and use a variety of context cues to quickly establish a referent and form a mental representation of the word. Therefore. 1990. 2006). physical attributes. Generalized Slowing in SLI Given the temporal constraints and the concurrent processing involved in word recognition. it appears that there is a restructuring of the lexicon. 2001. Leonard and Deevy (2004) suggested that children with SLI. & Harris. in effect. and word recognition. This is reflected in poorer naming and recognition. analysis and representation (Alt & Plante. children process words incrementally based on phonological segments. Marquis. & Capone. Nash & Donaldson. 2004). 1990. 1988). word retrieval. Delays in word learning and subsequent deficits in word comprehension. 2006. 1993). Newman. as in hat–cat. The limitations in phonological representation observed in children with SLI may result from atypical phonological behaviors that impede word learning (Schwartz. and the ability to access these networks (Gershkoff-Stowe. 2001. Gathercole & Baddeley. Gershkoff-Stowe and Hahn (2007) recently found evidence of fast mapping in children as young as 16–18 months old. including frequency of exposure. Thus. allowing the child to form additional associations within the lexical network and thereby increasing their ability to retrieve and comprehend words stored in the mental lexicon (Gray. In the fast-mapping model. Oetting. Younger children fully comprehend words after all of the phonological information is available. & Oetting. 1994) found that children with SLI often fail to retain and comprehend novel nouns. segmental approach that permits faster access to words based on initial phonemes (Garlock. & Metsala. Difficulty with nonword repetition has been attributed to reduced phonological access and working memory (Botting & Conti-Ramsden. they may form incomplete phonological and semantic representations. They have significant difficulty encoding the semantic features of unfamiliar words in structured and incidental learning paradigms (Alte & Plante. children eventually refine and enhance their representations. 2002.

processing speed correlated with performance on a standardized language battery. Although these models differ in specific mechanisms. and familiar associations such as mouse. whereas the activation of cohorts that match incoming data is strengthened. In a typical priming task. slower reaction time on a wide variety of language tasks is well-documented in children with SLI. Indeed. Slowed activation could limit a child’s ability to access and integrate semantic and phonological cues that would facilitate recognition. 1999). Plaut & Booth. Once all available information about the word is processed. Love & Brownell. They posit that lexical production and word recognition involve simultaneous activation of lexical cohorts with a rapid deactivation of candidates as new information is integrated. Priming is one method that has been used widely by researchers in adult language processing and aphasia (Balota & Lorch. & Radeborg.. or spoken words. The process is as follows: The subject is presented with a prime word followed by a target word. & Rosen. the more phonemes that words share. especially those with comprehension deficits (Edwards & Lahey. or (c) both linguistic processes? The organization of and access to the mental lexicon are commonly viewed within the framework of spreading activation models (see Dell. Activation models of 1618 Journal of Speech. word recognition include the revised cohort theory (Gaskill & Marslen-Wilson.. Most notably. Even motor performance was significantly slower. These findings were replicated in subsequent studies with older school-age children. Pisoni. researchers have employed systematic online methods that provide a temporal window into spreading activation. This may have significant implications for studies of auditory word recognition. Language. Marslen-Wilson. Miller. 1977).g. 53 • 1616–1628 • December 2010 . These children exhibited demonstrably slower nonverbal cognitive performance in visual matching. presumably because the words are linked in long-term memory and these associations are automatically activated during processing (Neely. These offline studies have provided invaluable insight into the nature of lexical impairments associated with SLI. but they have limited ability to differentiate discrete linguistic functions because information is processed over a relatively brief time continuum. Prather. and semantic) as well as retrieval of lexical units from long-term semantic memory. Kail. these methods are useful for detecting gross processing differences between groups. Zurif. word frequency. The auditory recognition and comprehension of words is a temporally constrained process that requires the immediate integration of various levels of linguistic representation (acoustic–phonetic. Sahlén.. the more phonological neighbors that will be activated.g. 1986). written words. visual searching. they both share a basic construct. For example. Is the failure to name or identify a word the result of (a) primary deficits in phonological processing. 1990). 1990).important to consider possible limitations in general processing as well as linguistic representation. McGregor et al. suggesting that slow reaction time persists through adolescence (Leonard et al. Collectively. & Goldinger. Nettelbladt. The subject is asked to names the target or makes a decision about it. Prather. According to the model. Reaction times tend to be faster for related words than for unrelated words. Spreading Activation and Priming Most of what we know regarding auditory word recognition in children with SLI has been inferred from picture naming. thus suggesting that in spoken word recognition. 2002. a cue word precedes a related target word in a sequential paired presentation (PRIME YTARGET). the inhibition caused by competitors occurs only at the beginning of the word recognition process. 2000. and mental figure rotation tasks. word identification. 1997) and the neighborhood activation model (Luce. Leonard. 1987) predict facilitation based on activation strength. and the reaction time is measured. In contrast. 1992). and availability of cues. figure tapping) and simple reaction time (e. 1997. 1995). Stern. and the cohorts are deactivated. The activation of cohorts that are inconsistent with the input is attenuated. thus reducing the probability of selecting the target word. Marinellie & Johnson. In an effort to examine the complex interaction between phonological and semantic cues. 2002. and Tomblin (2001) found that 9-yearold children with SLI were significantly slower than their age-matched peers in tasks that were not mediated by language. proponents of the revised cohort theory (Gaskill & Marslen-Wilson. the word cat may initially activate all words within the network that share similar phonological structure such as can or bat. 1999. (b) specific weaknesses in semantic organization. Therefore. Proponents of the neighborhood activation model view phonologically related words in the lexicon as competitors that inhibit rather than facilitate priming (Luce et al. and Hearing Research • Vol. only the target word remains active. tapping a key in response to a nonverbal stimulus). This activation facilitates access to the target word and speeds reaction time in naming and reading tasks. researchers believe that the priming phenomenon is a manifestation of spreading activation. Lahey & Edwards. lexical decision. 1997. a prime word activates its cohorts in the lexicon. Stark & Montgomery. phonological. 1996. Zurif. nonword repetition. 1996. The stimuli may be pictures. 1996.. 2007).. 1986. Reuterskiöld-Wagner. and definition tasks (Lahey & Edwards. categorical relationships such as kitten or dog. They demonstrated slower rapid alternated movement (e.

Brown. and prime–target pairs that are phonologically related rhyming words. Black. Priming in Children With and Without SLI Production studies using variations of the priming technique provide insight into the organization of the lexical network and the mechanisms involved in accessing those networks. not alive) relative to children with TLD across all conditions. First. 1991). and the Children’s Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx. Semel. All participants were administered the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals—III and IV (CELF–III. Seiger-Gardner and Schwartz (2008) used a picture/spoken word interference (PWI) task to measure naming reaction times to prime–target pairs. or vice versa? We made the following four predictions: 1. 1995). 2001. 2001). Radeau (1983) found that school-age children were faster at a lexical decision task when the target word was preceded by a semantically related word. do children with SLI demonstrate greater difficulty activating phonological cues than semantic cues. to the prime words (categorically and associatively). consistent with the generalized slowing hypothesis. we have found no systematic studies looking specifically 2. Purpose In this study. McGregor and Windsor (1996) found that preschool children with SLI did not improve naming accuracy when pictures were presented after a sentence containing a semantically and/or phonologically related prime word in the final position.0–11. Segui. Children with SLI would also show differences in activation between short and long ISIs as a result of slowed processing. Variations of the priming paradigm have been employed successfully by adult language researchers (Balota. as in log–dog (Joordens & Becker. & Cheney. do children with SLI demonstrate a pattern of activation during spoken word recognition that is simlar to that demonstrated by children with typical language development (TLD)? Second. & Johnson. Morais. A few studies suggested that priming effects can be observed in spoken word recognition as well. To date. CELF–IV. Velez & Schwartz: Spoken Word Recognition in SLI 1619 . the Test of NonVerbal Intelligence—2 (TONI–2. These studies suggest that priming may be a useful technique for differentiating between phonological and semantic deficits in children with SLI. Children with TLD would demonstrate phonological or semantic priming effects for word pairs with short and long interstimulus intervals (ISIs).g. Children with SLI would exhibit slower reaction times to a judgment task (alive vs. Spinelli. Fliers were posted in local community centers. 2003). 3. Method Participants Twenty six children—13 with SLI (7. 2001.Priming effects are generally observed when the length of time between the prime and the target is relatively brief. Children with SLI would demonstrate differences in the pattern of activation from their peers. private schools. 1992. Specifically. Neely. An absence of effects could indicate weak representations or impaired access to representations as a result of poor lexical organization of semantic and phonological information in the mental lexicon. In the crossmodal PWI task. & Secord. we examined semantic and phonological activation in children with and without SLI during spoken word recognition. semantically.3 [years. In word retrieval. We expected to see facilitation of reaction times when targets were phonologically similar to the prime words (rhymes) and when targets were closely related. although reaction times were still significantly slower for children than for adults. relatively fewer studies have used priming to examine auditory word recognition and lexical access in children. Radeau. slowing) affect spreading activation in children with SLI? Finally. Children with SLI exhibited longer lasting inhibition effects (greater interference) for semantically related items and earlier phonological facilitation effects than did their same-age peers. However. and after the picture appears).10)—were recruited from New York City and the greater New York area. at the same time as. months]) and 13 with TLD (7. as in cat–dog. 4. These cross-modal paradigms would predict inhibition effects (slower naming) for semantically related words presented earlier but facilitation for phonologically related words presented later. spoken words (interference words) were presented with pictures (targets) at various time points (before. 1997. Cronk. at spoken word recognition in children with SLI using the priming technique. Children were instructed to name the pictures and ignore the words. Hutchinson. thus suggesting that children as young as 6 years of age organize the lexicon in a similar way to adults. & Radeau.4–11. how do general processing limitations (e. lexical access presumably begins with a semantic representation of the word and proceeds toward phonological selection. Facilitation effects—faster reaction times to a lexical decision—in word recognition have been documented for prime–target pairs that are semantically related. Wiig. & Segui. about 100–2000 ms (Neely.. we sought to address three questions. Sherbenou.

h = .360. Rhyme.67) 109 (12.111.001. In the repetition condition.69) 73 (13. There were no significant differences between the two sets of targets on familiarity ratings. 53 • 1616–1628 • December 2010 . F(1. F(1. h = .561. The primes. and Word Fragment Norms database (see Nelson. Table 2 shows the average spoken word duration of targets and primes. TONI–2 = Test of Non-Verbal Intelligence—2. SLI = specific language impairment.9) 7 (2. All participants scored within 1 SD of the mean on the TONI–2. In addition. with a familiarity rating of 3 or more on a 5-point rating scale (5 indicating the highest familiarity) were used as targets. Thus. Additionally. The SLI group and the TLD group were matched for chronological age. F(1. h = . 24) = 86.019. Dunn & Dunn. 1990). 24) = 30. However. We randomly assigned the items to each ISI grouping and then analyzed them to ensure that items did not differ significantly.394. the target word was repeated. SLI M (SD) 98 (11. 170 unrelated words were selected as foils (see Appendix A). we used short (500-ms) and long (1.000-ms) ISIs. p < . 24) = 34.001. 16-bit) and were normalized using Materials Twenty target words were selected from the Snodgrass and Vanderwart (1980) picture identification norms based on their familiarity ratings.82) 108 (9. semantic. prime-to-target strength. a total of 60 prime– target pairs were used.422. The words were digitized (mono. PPVT–III = Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test—III.05. This database calculates a cue-to-target probability rating based on the number of participants in the sample divided by the number of participants producing the target in a free-association task. Given the rapid presentation of stimuli inherent in the list-priming paradigm and the slower processing speed of children with SLI. p < . Half of the prime–target pairs were presented with a 500-ms ISI. To be identified as TLD.646. F(1. p > . there were 10 targets presented in each of four priming conditions—phonological. The neutral condition featured unprimed targets. p < .783. attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder [ADHD]) were excluded. facilitation occurred at 20-ms and 500-ms ISIs when words overlapped in final position (as in rhymes). TLD = typical language development. We selected primes that were related categorically to the target and had a relatively high associative value based on the sample. in each ISI condition. h = .05.609. and Hearing Research • Vol. Significant differences were observed between groups across all standardized language tests. p > . McEvoy. h = . Participant characteristics and standardized test scores are reported in Table 1. h = .05.41) 108 (5.001. TLD) as the fixed factor. Radeau and colleagues (1995) found that inhibition effects in priming were more likely to be observed when primes and targets had an initial phonological overlap. 2004). autism. Results of standardized testing for SLI and TLD groups. 18) = 0. Only words Table 1. 24) = 57. h = . 18) = 0.g. 24) = 37. as in cat and can. and the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test—III (PPVT–III.79) TLD M (SD) 110 (11. CELF–III = Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals—III. and the other half were presented with a 1.663. F(1.& Johnson. & Schreiber. Twenty semantically related prime words were selected on the basis of their associative strength using the University of South Florida Word Association. the average familiarity ratings of targets. Children with a history of frank neurological impairment or symptoms of related disorders (e. repetition.43) 79 (14. p < . p < . Children with a scaled score greater than 1.3 SDs below the mean on at least two of three subtests of the Expressive and/or Receptive battery of the CELF–III / IV or at least one composite score of <85 on either the CELF–III Receptive Composite or the PPVT–III were identified as SLI.020.648. F(1. the results of the Word Classes subtest of the CELF–III (a measure of semantic organization) are reported.83) 72 (12. the CELF—Receptive Composite. including the PPVT–III.347. 1620 Journal of Speech. targets.006.04) 12 (1. 18) = 0.001. or spoken word duration. F(1. The 20 targets were the same in all conditions.000-ms ISI. children had to score within 1 SD on all language measures.66) 107 (8. Language. A multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was conducted with Group (SLI. A MANOVA was conducted with ISI (500. Semantically related pairs consisted of words that were categorically related and strongly associated to ensure a facilitation effect. Twenty rhyming words (final phonological overlap) were used as phonological primes.706. 1000) as the fixed factor. 1997). and an analysis of variance (ANOVA) also revealed significant differences between groups.001.25) 84 (9. and the CELF—Total Composite. We chose to use different prime–target pairs in each ISI to avoid compounding repetition effects. p > . the CELF—Expressive Composite. h = . and neutral. Phonologically related pairs were rhymes that were not semantically related.36) Test/subtest TONI–2 PPVT–III CELF–III Total Composite Expressive Composite Receptive Composite Word Classes Note. and the average cue-to-target strength for semantic primes across ISIs. F(1.591. Thus. and 170 additional foil words were spoken by a female speaker and recorded in a soundproof booth using a TASCAM 400 DAT recorder.

thus. The NO RESPONSE feedback was displayed when children failed to respond before the program moved to the next word. false starts (reaction times faster than 100 ms). Table 3 shows the order of presentation in each session. INCORRECT in red. The response box had two keys marked YES and NO. Spoken word duration. outliers accounted for 30% of the total discarded trials at 500-ms ISIs and 65% at 1. In the practice. Each session consisted of a practice list. the accuracy rates at 500 ms ISIs were 70% in the neutral condition. Participants were told to make this judgment as quickly as possible.000-ms ISIs. Eschman. familiarity. and 85% in the semantic condition. 500-ms ISI M (SD) 1. responses that were greater than 2 SDs above or below each individual subject’s mean in each condition were considered outliers and were also discarded. This list consisted of 37 foils and 10 embedded targets.394 (0. 2002).455 (0.000 ms 10 targets 500 ms 10 targets Block 1 500 ms 10 prime –target pairs 75 foils 1. 78% in the repetition condition. Two children in the TLD Table 3. ISI = interstimulus interval. Only the investigators were aware of the block structure of the presentation. The experiment was divided into two testing sessions. McEvoy. Session no. For the TLD group. Children wore headphones and were seated in front of a computer monitor with a response box.000 ms 10 prime –target pairs 75 foils 500 ms 10 prime –target pairs Block 3 500 ms 10 prime–target pairs 75 foils 1. Most of the errors in the TLD group were false starts and incorrect responses. In the TLD group. the embedded pairs. In the SLI group. The purpose of the practice was to Results Rates at 500-ms ISIs and 1. 81% in the phonological condition. outliers accounted for 17% of the total discarded data at 500-ms ISIs and 14% at 1.000-ms ISI M (SD) Variable Spoken word duration (ms) Target/repetition Semantic prime Phonological prime Target familiarity (Snodgrass & Vanderwart. 1992).3 (0. Testing procedure with blocked presentation sequence. 1 Practice 37 foils Baseline 1.5) 0. The ISI was a silent interval inserted after each word in the list.000-ms ISIs Accuracy scores excluding outliers are reported in Table 4. or NO RESPONSE in green.5. children heard a list of 35 unrelated foils. and semantic cue-totarget strength. 627 (75) 687 (81) 595 (121) 4. 1980) Semantic cue-to-target strength (Nelson. The children were told that they would hear a list of words read aloud by a woman. 2004) Note.. Procedure We employed a list-priming procedure in which prime–target pairs are embedded within a running list of words so that the actual pairs are imperceptible to the participants (Prather et al. We used the baseline list to obtain reaction times for target words in the neutral condition (no prime). The participants simply heard a running list of words that had no discernable order or relationship.Table 2. The experimental session was designed and controlled with E-Prime software (Schneider. and responses recorded as NO RESPONSE were automatically discarded from the data. & Zuccolotto.8) 0. Embedded within each block were 10 prime–target pairs. we ensured that no target appeared more than twice in an experimental session. outliers accounted for most of the discarded data for this group.000-ms ISIs.000 ms 10 prime –target pairs Block 2 1.227) Sound Forge 4. In addition. To prevent additional repetition effects. & Schreiber. The SLI group had more correct responses and fewer false starts. Incorrect responses to the animacy judgment task. We kept the proportion of prime–target pairs to filler words intentionally low to prevent participants from developing predictive strategies about the relationships between words. A feedback display screen displayed the words CORRECT in blue. familiarize the participants with the procedure and the feedback. a baseline list.000 ms 10 prime–target pairs 2 37 foils Velez & Schwartz: Spoken Word Recognition in SLI 1621 . and the differing ISIs. The experimental list was divided into three blocks of 75 words (see the sample block in Appendix B). and the experimental list.1 (0.204) 641 (105) 648 (65) 619 (78) 4. The order of the sessions was alternated so that half the subjects participated in Session II the first week and Session I the following week. They were instructed to press the YES key if words were animals and the NO key if words were not animals.

h = .785. F1(1.964. 81% in the phonological condition.515.05. particularly the SLI group. 85% in the phonological condition. p > . h = . h = . Mean reaction times (RTs) by group and condition at 500-ms and 1. h = . Robust effect sizes were observed for both Group and Prime Type effects. p > . There was a significant main effect of Group. p < .000 ms are reported in Table 5.029 697 968 658 822 684 903 810 1. the accuracy rates were 80% in the neutral condition. It appears that both groups were slightly more accurate at 1. 18) = 1. p > . p < . 500-ms ISI Total # correct responses Condition a 1. h = . h = .014.000-ms ISIs. and 87% in the semantic condition.868.433. 24) = 3. 24) = 3. p > . or Prime Type.499. 18) = 65. and Hearing Research • Vol. Planned comparisons were conducted using two-tailed t tests of significance. 54) = 0.463.05. F1(1.764. p > . h = . At 1. There was a significant effect of ISI.05. but there were no significant ISI × Group interaction. F2(3. p > . and there was no significant Group × Prime Type interaction. and F2(3.257. and 88% in the semantic condition.537.05.499. p > . p > . For the SLI group. p < .456. 72) = 1.05. A multilevel general linear model ANOVA with targets as the random variable revealed no significant effect of Group. h = . 54) = 2.115. h = . 24) = 13.691. F2(1. h = . the accuracy rate was 78% in the neutral condition.337. Accuracy scores by group and condition at 500-ms and 1. the accuracy rates at 500-ms ISIs were 82% in the neutral condition. F2(3.969. Condition Group 500-ms ISI Neutral Phonological Repetition Semantic TLD SLI TLD SLI TLD SLI TLD SLI 1.074. p > . h = .459. and 80% in the semantic condition.066. F1(1. Table 5.000-ms ISIs. 72) = 1. h = . 72) = 23. Mean reaction times and SDs for target words at ISIs of 500 and 1. p > .05.000-ms ISIs Statistical analyses were conducted using a 2 (Group) × 2 (ISI) × 4 (Prime Type) general linear model ANOVA with repeated measures.743. F1(1.05. 83% in the repetition condition.281. 24) = 23. Item Phonological Repetition Semantic 1622 Journal of Speech. 77% in the repetition condition. F1(3.018. 18) = 2. p > .132. F2(1.05. F1(3. Language. F2( Only correct responses to the binary judgment task were used for statistical analyses.000-ms ISI % Correct Total # correct responses TLD 104 105 108 104 SLI 117 110 122 115 % Correct TLD 80 81 83 80 SLI 90 81 94 88 TLD 91 105 101 110 SLI 106 105 99 113 TLD 70 81 78 85 SLI 82 81 76 87 Neutral Phonological Repetition Semantic a 10 trials. At 1.051. 18) = 0. analyses were conducted using targets as the random variable (F2). h = . 54) = 15. h = .911. 130 total cases per condition. h = .000-ms ISIs. 24) = 0. h = .014. F1(3. p > .05. The lack of group effects and interactions as well as the lack of item effects suggest that within-group differences observed in RT could not be attributed to differences in accuracy across groups and conditions.257. 94% in the repetition condition. F1(3.126. and a significant effect of Prime Type. the accuracy rates were 90% in the neutral condition. h = .05. F2(1. p > .and 1.000-ms ISIs. There were also no significant interactions between Group and Prime Type.072. p < . F2(1. 54) = 0. 72) = 2. 53 • 1616–1628 • December 2010 . F2( 679 955 668 879 705 945 165 216 237 139 145 79 181 138 144 201 165 181 115 138 143 169 Mean RT (ms) SD Neutral Reaction Times Across Priming Conditions at 500.863.079. group had very low accuracy in the neutral condition (<50%).828. 18) = 1. 81% in the phonological condition.05.Table 4. p < .000-ms ISI TLD SLI TLD SLI TLD SLI TLD SLI 771 1.05. When these participants’ accuracy scores were excluded. h = . there was no significant effect of ISI. However. n = ISIs. F1(1.

the activation of associates may be too brief or the activation level may be too weak to facilitate comprehension of a related target Discussion The purpose of this study was to contribute to the current understanding of how children with SLI organize Velez & Schwartz: Spoken Word Recognition in SLI 1623 . 12) = 2. This would facilitate processing of the target word because there may be residual activation of lexical cohorts to the prime word (Neely. h = . 9) = 1. It is believed that rich semantic representations result in stronger activation levels and more associations within the mental lexicon (Capone & McGregor. Previous studies have documented weaknesses in phonological and semantic representation as well as reduced general processing speed. 2002).05.05. p > . we had planned to conduct comparisons within each group to determine whether priming had occurred for repetition.05. 12) = 2.05. p > . t1(1.596. h = . then poorly formed representations and slowed processing could impede access to the lexicon.05.000-ms ISIs. In contrast. 1991). h = . Planned comparisons revealed significant differences in reaction times within groups for some of these categories.252.611. h = . and t2(1. relative to the neutral condition. h = . p > .379.705.0002. TLD children exhibited facilitation effects for semantically related pairs at 1.05. h = . 9) = 0.05. t1(1. McGregor & Appel.017.237.05. t1(1.019. p > . h = . h = .ISI and Group. and t2(1. t1(1. Reaction times for semantically related words were not significantly faster than the neutral condition. p < .05. or between the phonological and neutral condition. the TLD group exhibited significantly faster reaction times in the repetition condition. t1(1. Gaskill & Marslen-Wilson.674. the phonological condition. p > . t1(1. These weaknesses have been linked to delays in lexical acquisition during early development as well as later developing weaknesses in word retrieval and word recognition. and F2(1. 12) = 1. thus. As with their typically developing peers. p > .006.429. F1(3.05.177. p < . t1(1. p > . and t2(1.370. p > . p < . 9) = 2. t1(1. 12) = 1. then activation levels may be weaker and more transient. p > . h = . h = . p > . h = .05. p < .61. h = .66. p < .05. p > . h = .009. 12) = 2. p < . children with SLI exhibited significant differences between the repetition and neutral condition. reject incompatible associates. From the outset. words that share semantic features are activated as well. and t2(1. their mental lexicon. 2006.161. h = . t1(1.05.742. and t2(1. more associations within the lexical network (Gray. and t2(1. children hear a prime word immediately followed by a related target word. h = . integrate phonological and semantic cues. 9) = 3. 18) = 0. t1( If children with SLI form weak representations. t1(1. Semantic Representation and Activation As expected. and semantically related targets by comparing the reaction times for these conditions to the reaction times for targets that were preceded by unrelated words (neutral). The facilitation effect on auditory recognition lends support to the notion that typically developing children appear to access semantic information more quickly and efficiently than children with SLI because they have more refined and enhanced semantic representations and. However.05. p < . 24) = 0. In contrast. but no differences in reaction time were observed between the semantic and neutral condition. 9) = 4. when each was compared with the neutral condition.05. h = .589.05.59. p < . children with SLI did not display semantic priming effects at either ISI.743. 2005. h = . and select target words. h = .027.265. 12) = 1. We sought to examine semantic and phonological aspects of auditory word recognition in children with SLI using a list-priming procedure. p > .716. and t2(1.05. h = . Repetition resulted in the fastest reaction times for both groups.811.548. and t2(1. t1(1.015. 12) = 1. h = .767.103. phonological rhymes.05. At 1. differential effects of semantic and phonological cues on activation and access to the mental lexicon.05.422 relative to the neutral condition. and t2(1.558.05. when compared with the neutral condition.05. the SLI group exhibited facilitation only in the repetition condition. F1(1.05. 9) = 12. Our research questions focused on the semantic and phonological priming in children. Marslen-Wilson 1987). Again. p > . 54) = 0. p < 0. p > . and t2(1. Word recognition was significantly faster when words were preceded by semantically related words. 72) = 0. the TLD group exhibited significantly faster reaction times for the repetition condition. p > . Presumably. 12) = 4. when a prime word is heard.311.125.05. 1977. Thus.373.89.007. 12) = 3. 9) = 3.748. or for the phonological condition.168. h = 0. no differences in reaction time were observed between the semantic and neutral condition. and t2(1.258. 1986.05. 9) = 1. h = .707.562.175. h = . 9) = 4. h = . or ISI and Prime Type.000-ms ISIs.045. p > . 9) = 2. At 500-ms ISIs. and t2(1. and these cohorts remain active to facilitate recognition and comprehension. h = . h = .05.341.520. and the semantic condition. reaction times were not significantly different for the semantic condition compared to the neutral condition.357.363. 9) = 2. 12) = 2.767. 12) = 3. The presence of a semantic priming effect indicates that typically developing children activate semantic associates.081. h = .312.280. 9) = 1. This is consistent with theories of spreading activation (see Dell. In a typical priming task. and the impact of generalized slowing. 2005).05. If we assume a spreading activation model in which children activate multiple cohorts. h = . p < .64. 12) = 0. p < .039. or between the phonological and neutral condition.627. and F2(3. 1997. p > . when a child with SLI hears a prime word.

and Hearing Research • Vol. less overall activation available to facilitate recognition. This similarly suggests a failure to establish the strong associative networks that facilitate storage and retrieval in long-term memory.to 7-year-olds showed facilitation for rhymes but inhibition for words with an initial phoneme overlap. Garlock. Kail and colleagues (1984) also found that children with SLI recalled fewer words than did their age-matched peers when recall was cued by category labels. However. given the relatively small number of participants in the present study. Language. Garlocket al. one of the 7-year-olds exhibited slower reaction times in the phonological condition. The findings of this study suggest that for children with SLI. 1995).. The age ranges of participants in the present study raise questions about age-related differences. 2000. rhyming words did not facilitate naming for the TLD group in their study. 53 • 1616–1628 • December 2010 . Semantic and Phonological Priming in Children With SLI Neither the typically developing children nor the children with SLI exhibited semantic or phonological priming Journal of Speech. The failure of children with SLI to demonstrate phonological priming effects for rhyming words at either ISI seems compatible with the findings of Seiger-Gardner and Brooks (2008). It seems more likely that the differences between the picture word interference task and the list-priming paradigm (e.word. which also found that spoken rhyming words presented earlier did not facilitate picture naming in a cross-modal task. there will be fewer cues and. only two 7-year-olds in each group. consequently. interactive model of lexical activation in which multiple phonological cohorts are initially activated on the basis of lowlevel acoustic phonetic information and are eventually suppressed as the information is integrated with higher order semantic representations. We assumed a temporally dependent. varying stimulus onset asynchrony vs. 1998). we also used categorical associates as cues. we cannot ignore the combined effects of generalized slowing on spreading activation within the mental lexicon. In fact. and the children with SLI produced significantly more errors in production. there appears to be a restructuring of the lexicon in which children progress from a holistic approach to phonological processing to an incremental. cross-modal vs. We did not find this after reviewing the individual mean reaction times for participants in the TLD and SLI groups. 1996. This is compatible with the generalized slowing hypothesis as well as previous studies demonstrating slower word recognition and naming in this population (Miller et al. The rest of the participants were 8–11 years of age. targets were more accessible when words were simply repeated and the word was fully activated.. 1998). Although our findings lend support to accounts of deficits in semantic representations and phonological processing. 2001. Edwards & Lahey. & Metsala. spoken word only. They found that semanticassociate errors were the most prevalent types of errors in children with SLI. Thus. Still. Edwards and Lahey (1999) contended that children with SLI have poorly differentiated and poorly organized semantic representations that impede lexical access during rapid naming. Yet. whereas rhyming words facilitated recognition for the TLD group in our study. Metsala & Walley. Walley. if there are fewer associative connections in the mental lexicon. 2001. 2000. Metsala & Walley. even in this condition. deficits in auditory word recognition may result from the combination of slowed activation and weak and/or fleeting phonological and semantic connections along the lexical network. Likewise. Phonological Activation and Representation As children mature. If there was an effect of phonological restructuring. One possible explanation for the conflicting results could be the restructuring of the lexicon that is believed to occur in the school-age years (Brooks & MacWhinney. Stark & Montgomery. ISIs. 2001. children with SLI were significantly slower than their TLD counterparts. then we would expect to see faster mean reaction times for 7-year-olds relative to the neutral condition and the reverse in the 11-year-olds.) would account for the seemingly discrepant results. Children with SLI appear to take much longer to process auditory spoken words and access representations in the lexicon. segmental approach that permits faster access to words on the basis of initial phonemes (Brooks & MacWhinney. In the present study. All of the 11-year-olds demonstrated faster mean reaction times in the phonological condition at both ISIs. etc. thus. Children with SLI exhibited priming effects only in the repetition condition.. their ability to access words was much slower than that of their typically developing peers. The reverse was found for children ages 9–11 years. the failure to prime supports the findings of offline studies asserting that deficit automatic word finding and auditory word recognition may be the by-products of limitations in the formation of semantic representations. we cannot completely rule out an effect of phonological restructuring. there were 1624 Generalized Slowing and Activation Children with SLI demonstrated much slower reaction times across ISIs and priming conditions. In the present study.g. Seiger-Gardner and Brooks (2008) found that although this restructuring does appear to occur in children with SLI. Brooks and MacWhinney (2000) found that 5.

Carey. R.. predictions and evidence. Children in the TLD group did demonstrate facilitation effects for semantic and phonological conditions at 1. Brown. (2006). 30. & Conti-Ramsden. R. Psychological Review. There are several possible explanations for the lack of priming at short-millisecond ISIs. and Hearing Research. S. Online techniques have been widely used in adult language research and are increasingly being used in the study of child language and SLI (Cronk. The phonological structure and the semantic features of the prime were fully activated in the lexical network.000-ms ISI is necessary to observe semantic and phonological priming at this age. Acquiring a single new word. 93.. NY) for their cooperation in subject recruitment. the entire word would have to be processed in order for the priming effect to occur.. In the phonological condition (rhymes). 1997). K. (2005). Given the evidence of generalized slowing in language-impaired children. & MacWhinney. S. Language. Phonological. S. & Plante. Brooks. 27. 407–420. It appears that at the shorter ISI. future studies may yield more detailed information by employing experimental designs that allow for a systematic examination of activation across a broader continuum of ISIs.. and Hearing Research. TX: Pro-Ed. However. References Alt. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning.000-ms ISIs... In this condition. S. Language. Cronk. A. Phonological priming in children’s picture naming. and lexical organization in real time. Journal of Speech. Kennedy University Center For Excellence In Developmental Disabilities. International Journal of Language Communication Disorders. 47. F. (1986). Factors that influence lexical and semantic fast mapping of young children with specific language impairment. Alt. 1992.. E. In this way. Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University (Bronx. 421–432. G.. McGregor & Windsor. 48. Circle Pines. G. and repetition priming with homophones. 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000 ms) Filler: lettuce (1. Block 1). Language.000 ms) Filler: mountain (1.000 ms) Target: chair (1. 53 • 1616–1628 • December 2010 . Repetition prime: chair (1. Sample block presentation of word list with embedded prime–target pairs (from Session 1. and Hearing Research • Vol. Primes and target words.000 ms) Target: leg (1.000-ms ISI Targets/repetition prime bread broom cake cup coat dog fish nose plane spoon Semantic prime toast mop pie glass jacket cat tuna ear jet fork Phonological prime head room rake pup boat log dish hose rain moon Phonological prime hat hook star hair gun tea egg pail hen house Appendix B.Appendix A.000 ms) Filler: bee (1.000 ms) Phonological prime: egg (1.000 ms) Filler: deer (1.000 ms) 1628 Journal of Speech.000 ms) Filler: chicken (1. 500-ms ISI Targets/repetition prime bat book car chair sun key leg nail pen mouse Semantic prime ball page van table moon lock arm hammer marker rat 1.

along with updated information and services. DOI: 10. originally published online Aug 26.53. Phonological.Spoken Word Recognition in School-Age Children With SLI: Semantic.org/cgi/content/full/53/6/1616#BIBL This information is current as of January 27. and Repetition Priming Melinda Velez. 2011 This article. Schwartz J Speech Lang Hear Res 2010. 2010.1616-1628. is located on the World Wide Web at: http://jslhr.org/cgi/content/full/53/6/1616 .asha.asha.1044/1092-4388(2010/09-0042) The references for this article include 13 HighWire-hosted articles which you can access for free at: http://jslhr. and Richard G.

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