Verb learning in children with SLI: frequency and spacing effects.

Journal Article (Journal Article)


This study explored the effect of frequency (number of presentations), and spacing (period between presentations) on verb learning in children with specific language impairment (SLI). Children learn words more efficiently when presentations are frequent and appropriately spaced, and this study investigated whether children with SLI likewise benefit. Given that these children demonstrate greater frequency dependence and rapid forgetting of recently acquired words, an investigation of frequency and spacing in this population is especially warranted.


Twenty-four children with SLI (mean age 5;6 [years;months]) and 24 language-matched control children (mean age 3;4) were taught novel verbs during play sessions. In a repeated measures design, 4 experimental conditions combined frequency (12 or 18 presentations) and spacing (all presentations in 1 session, or spread over 4 days). Comprehension and production probes were administered after the final session and 1 week later.


Although the children with SLI benefited significantly from frequent and widely spaced presentations, there were no significant effect in the control group. The language-impaired children showed rapid forgetting.


The frequency and spacing of presentations crucially affect the verb learning of children with SLI. A training regimen characterized by appropriately spaced intervals and moderate repetition will optimally benefit lexical learning.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Riches, NG; Tomasello, M; Conti-Ramsden, G

Published Date

  • December 2005

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 48 / 6

Start / End Page

  • 1397 - 1411

PubMed ID

  • 16478379

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1558-9102

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1092-4388

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1044/1092-4388(2005/097)


  • eng