Sentence repetition is a measure of children's language skills rather than working memory limitations

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Abstract

Sentence repetition tasks are widely used in the diagnosis and assessment of children with language difficulties. This paper seeks to clarify the nature of sentence repetition tasks and their relationship to other language skills. We present the results from a 2-year longitudinal study of 216 children. Children were assessed on measures of sentence repetition, vocabulary knowledge and grammatical skills three times at approximately yearly intervals starting at age 4. Sentence repetition was not a unique longitudinal predictor of the growth of language skills. A unidimensional language latent factor (defined by sentence repetition, vocabulary knowledge and grammatical skills) provided an excellent fit to the data, and language abilities showed a high degree of longitudinal stability. Sentence repetition is best seen as a reflection of an underlying language ability factor rather than as a measure of a separate construct with a specific role in language processing. Sentence repetition appears to be a valuable tool for language assessment because it draws upon a wide range of language processing skills.

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