Non-word repetition in children with language impairment: Pitfalls and possibilities

Birgitta Sahlén, Christina Reuterskiöld-Wagner, Ulrika Nettelbladt, Karl Radeborg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Specific language impairment has, although not without controversy, been considered as a consequence of a phonological memory deficit. Non-word repetition has been proposed as a reliable index of phonological memory and also as predictive of lexical and grammatical development in normally developing and language-impaired children. The main aim was to study the relationship between repetition of words and non-words and expressive language skills (phonology and grammar) in 27 5-year-old children with language impairment. The authors also wanted to explore the influence of lexical stress on repetition skills. The results showed that words were significantly easier to repeat than non-words and that non-word repetition skills were significantly correlated to phonological and grammatical development. The most important predictor of non-word repetition skills was output phonology. The conclusion is that non-word repetition is not a single, reliable index of phonological memory in preschool children with language impairment. Also, the influence of prosodic variables on segmental aspects of speech production should not be overlooked in non-word construction, since it was found that unstressed syllables were omitted six times more often in prestressed than in post-stressed positions of the words and non-words.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)337-352
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Language and Communication Disorders
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1999


  • Language impairment
  • Lexical stress
  • Non-word repetition
  • Phonological memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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