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Mem Cognit. 2012 Nov;40(8):1314-30. doi: 10.3758/s13421-012-0237-x.

Phonological memory in bilinguals and monolinguals.

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Department of Communicative Disorders, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1975 Willow Drive, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


In the present study, we examined the effects of lexical-semantic knowledge and of difficulty level on phonological memory performance by monolingual adult English speakers and bilingual adult Korean-English speakers. The monolingual English speakers were more proficient in English than the bilingual speakers. All participants were tested on a range of phonological memory tasks in English. We manipulated the degree to which the phonological memory tasks involved lexical-semantic knowledge of English (word-span task, digit-span task, and nonword repetition task), as well as the difficulty level of the tasks. Results revealed that on the word-span task (highest level of lexical-semantic knowledge), monolinguals outperformed bilinguals at the easier levels of the task but bilinguals outperformed monolinguals at the more difficult levels of the task. For the digit-span and nonword repetition tasks, monolinguals outperformed bilinguals at the easier levels of the tasks, but the differences between the two groups vanished with the increase in the difficulty levels. Together, these results suggest that proficiency-based differences between monolingual and bilingual phonological memory performance depend on the degree to which the tasks rely on lexical-semantic knowledge and the difficulty level of the task.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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