Working memory and sentence comprehension of Hong Kong Chinese children with specific language impairment

Elaine Siu, Wai Kwong Man

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


Children with Specific Language Impairment present with delayed language development, but do not have a history of hearing impairment, mental deficiency, or associated social or behavioral problems. Non-word repetition was suggested as an index to reflect the capacity of phonological working memory. There is a paucity of such studies among Hong Kong Chinese children. This preliminary study aimed to examine the relationship between phonological working memory and Specific Language Impairment, through the processes of non-word repetition and sentence comprehension, of children with Specific Language Impairment and pre-school children with normal language development. Both groups of children were screened by a standardized language test. A list of Cantonese (the commonest dialect used in Hong Kong) multisyllabic nonsense utterances and a set of 18 sentences were developed for this study. t-tests and Pearson correlation were used to study the relationship between non-word repetition, working memory and specific language impairment. Twenty-three pre-school children with Specific Language Impairment (mean age=68.30-months; SD=6.90) and another 23 pre-school children (mean age=67.30 months; SD=6.16) participated in the study. Significant difference performance was found between the Specific Language Impairment group and normal language group in the multisyllabic nonsense utterances repetition task and the sentence comprehension task. Length effect was noted in Specific Language Impairment group children, which is consistent with the findings of other literature. In addition, correlations were also observed between the number of nonsense utterances repeated and the number of elements comprehended. Cantonese multisyllabic nonsense utterances might be worth further developing as a screening tool for the early detection of children with Specific Language Impairment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-269
Number of pages3
JournalInternational Journal of Rehabilitation Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2006


  • Sentence comprehension
  • Specific language impairment
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Health Professions(all)

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