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Semantic effects in sentence recall: The contribution of immediate vs delayed recall in language assessment

Polišenská, K. ORCID: 0000-0001-7405-6689, Chiat, S., Comer, A. & McKenzie, K. (2014). Semantic effects in sentence recall: The contribution of immediate vs delayed recall in language assessment. Journal of Communication Disorders, 52, pp. 65-77. doi: 10.1016/j.jcomdis.2014.08.002


Sentence recall is increasingly used to assess language. It is widely debated what the task is actually testing, but one rarely explored aspect is the contribution of semantics to sentence recall. The few studies that have examined the role of semantics in sentence recall have employed an 'intrusion paradigm', following Potter and Lombardi (1990), and their paradigm relies on interference errors with conclusions based on an analysis of error patterns. We have instead manipulated the semantic plausibility of whole sentences to investigate the effects of semantics on immediate and delayed sentence recall. In Study 1, adults recalled semantically plausible and implausible sentences either immediately or after distracter tasks varying in lexical retrieval demands (backward counting and picture naming). Results revealed significant effects of plausibility, delay, and a significant interaction indicating increasing reliance on semantics as the demands of the distracter tasks increased. Study 2, conducted with 6-year-old children, employed delay conditions that were modified to avoid floor effects (delay with silence and forward counting) and a similar pattern of results emerged. This novel methodology provided robust evidence showing the effectiveness of delayed recall in the assessment of semantics and the effectiveness of immediate recall in the assessment of morphosyntax. The findings from our study clarify the linguistic mechanisms involved in immediate and delayed sentence recall, with implications for the use of recall tasks in language assessment.

Learning outcomes: The reader will be able to: (i) understand the difference between immediate and delayed sentence recall and different types of distractors, (ii) understand the utility of immediate and delayed recall sentence recall in language assessment, (iii) discuss suitability of delayed recall for the assessment of semantics.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Journal of Communication Disorders. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Journal of Communication Disorders, Volume 52, November–December 2014, Pages 65–77,
Publisher Keywords: Assessment, Delayed recall, Immediate recall, Semantics, Sentence
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Language & Communication Science
SWORD Depositor:
[thumbnail of Polisenska, Chiat, Comer & McKenzie final JCD 2014.pdf]
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