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Dev Psychol. 1997 Nov;33(6):966-79.

Phonological short-term memory and new word learning in children.

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Department of Psychology, University of Bristol, England.


Sixty-five 5-year old children participated in 4 experimental tasks of word learning that varied systematically in the amounts of phonological and nonphonological learning required. Measures of the children's performances on 2 measures of phonological memory (digit span and nonword repetition), vocabulary knowledge, and nonverbal ability were also obtained. Learning of the sound structures of new words was significantly, and to some degree independently, associated with aspects of both phonological memory skill and vocabulary knowledge. Learning of pairs of familiar words was linked with current vocabulary knowledge, although not with phonological memory scores. The findings suggest that both existing lexical knowledge and phonological short-term memory play significant roles in the long-term learning of the sounds of new words. The study also provides evidence of both shared and distinct processes contributing to nonword repetition and digit span tasks.

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