The encoding of word forms into memory may be challenging for college students with developmental language impairment

Karla McGregor, Tim Arbisi-Kelm, Nichole Eden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Purpose: To describe the word-learning problems characteristic of developmental language impairment (LI). Method: College students with LI (n = 39) or normal language development (ND, n = 40) attempted to learn novel word forms. Training for half of the words was meaning-focused; training for the other half was form-focused. Form recognition and stem completion tasks administered immediately after training tapped encoding of the lexical configuration and a repetition of the stem completion task one week later tapped consolidation. A visual world paradigm tapped lexical engagement. Result: At the immediate post-test, the LI group was poorer at recognition and completion of word forms than their ND peers, suggesting a deficit in encoding the lexical configuration. However, the gap between the LI and ND groups in stem completion did not grow over the week, suggesting intact consolidation. Form-focused training yielded better performance than meaning-focused training at immediate- and one week tests. For both groups, newly trained words slowed the recognition of familiar English words, revealing lexical engagement. Conclusion: The encoding of word-form configurations is challenging for some, but not all, college students with LI. Training that encourages a focus on the form may be a useful part of vocabulary intervention for those affected.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-57
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Speech-Language Pathology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Developmental language impairment
  • memory
  • word learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Research and Theory
  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • LPN and LVN
  • Speech and Hearing


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