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Which skills influence pre-school children’s repetition of words, non-words and sentences?

Hockey, Hannah (2014). Which skills influence pre-school children’s repetition of words, non-words and sentences?. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)


This study explores the role of existing language knowledge and phonological short-term memory (PSTM) on pre-school children’s non-word, word and sentence repetition (NWR, WR and SR). Previous studies have revealed that children with language difficulties find these tasks difficult, but there is debate about which skills are measured. This study aimed to contribute to this understanding. Identification of the underlying skills would enable speech therapists to plan targeted therapy to support the children’s difficulties.

Data was collected at two time points: at time one from fifty-four participants, aged 3-3 ½ years old; and at time two from fifty-two of the original sample (aged 4 -4½ years).

The study is split into four parts. First it explores three influences on the children’s WR and NWR: knowledge of the words, speech sound skills and PSTM, at both time-points. The second part divides the group into children with and without identified speech and language difficulties. It explores differences in performance by the two groups. Part three explores the influence of grammar (morphology) and PSTM on sentence repetition. Part four investigates relationships between children’s NWR and WR at both time points with their SR at the second time-point.

There was evidence at both time-points that children draw on long-term word knowledge during WR and no evidence of them using PSTM in this task. There was a clear influence of PSTM on their NWR. The children’s speech affected both NWR and WR. The clinical group repeated both known words and non-words less accurately than the non-clinical group. They showed a similar pattern of performance in their repetition of non-words, but achieved lower scores across all syllable lengths.

Children aged 4 years used existing grammatical skills when repeating sentences. There was limited evidence of the influence of PSTM. A correlation was found between children’s NWR and later SR. The relationship was due to the influence of language knowledge and PSTM on both tasks.

Results from the study suggest that for both NWR and SR language knowledge and PTSM interact in their effect on accuracy. The tasks are however useful clinically because children’s scores are influenced by their existing language knowledge.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PE English
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Language & Communication Science
Doctoral Theses
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > School of Health & Psychological Sciences Doctoral Theses
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