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Psychol Sci. 2012 Oct 1;23(10):1092-8. doi: 10.1177/0956797612443833. Epub 2012 Aug 24.

Nonword-repetition ability does not appear to be a causal influence on children's vocabulary development.

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  • 1Department of Special Needs Education, University of Oslo.


In the study reported here, we assessed the theory that vocabulary learning in children depends critically on the capacity of a "phonological loop" that is indexed by nonword-repetition ability. A 3-year longitudinal study of 219 children assessed nonword-repetition ability and vocabulary knowledge at yearly intervals between the ages of 4 and 7 years. There was a considerable degree of longitudinal stability in children's vocabulary and nonword-repetition skills, but there was no evidence of any influence of nonword-repetition ability on later vocabulary knowledge. These results seriously call into question the claim that vocabulary learning in children is constrained by nonword-repetition ability, and they cast doubt on the broader theory that the phonological loop functions as a language-learning device.

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