Receptive Vocabulary and Semantic Knowledge in Children with SLI and Children with Down Syndrome

Glynis J Laws, Josie Briscoe, Su Yin Y Ang, Heather Brown, Ehab Hermena, Anna K Kapikian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Receptive vocabulary and associated semantic knowledge were compared within and between groups of children with specific language impairment (SLI), children with Down syndrome (DS), and typically developing children. To overcome the potential confounding effects of speech or language difficulties on verbal tests of semantic knowledge, a novel task was devised based on picture-based semantic association tests used to assess adult patients with semantic dementia. Receptive vocabulary, measured by word-picture matching, of children with SLI was weak relative to chronological age and to nonverbal mental age but their semantic knowledge, probed across the same lexical items, did not differ significantly from that of vocabulary-matched typically developing children. By contrast, although receptive vocabulary of children with DS was a relative strength compared to nonverbal cognitive abilities (p < .0001), DS was associated with a significant deficit in semantic knowledge (p < .0001) indicative of dissociation between word-picture matching vocabulary and depth of semantic knowledge. Overall, these data challenge the integrity of semantic-conceptual development in DS and imply that contemporary theories of semantic cognition should also seek to incorporate evidence from atypical conceptual development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)490-508
Number of pages19
JournalChild Neuropsychology
Issue number4
Early online date15 May 2014
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2014

Structured keywords

  • Memory


  • Semantic cognition
  • Specific language impairment
  • Down syndrome
  • Semantic
  • Vocabulary


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