Graduation Year

2009

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Psychology

Major Professor

Judith Becker Bryant, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Stefan A. Frisch, Ph.D

Keywords

Wordlikeness, Phonotactic probability, Type frequency, Phonological learning, Stress patterns

Abstract

Nonword repetition tasks were originally devised to assess the efficiency of the phonological loop (Baddeley & Hitch, 1974), a component of the working memory system, where verbal information is temporarily stored and translated to support activities like phonological processing during early word-recognition (Snowling, 1981; Wagner et al., 2003), speech production (McCarthy & Warrington, 1984), and articulation (Watkins, Dronkers, & Vargha-Khadem, 2002; Yoss & Darley, 1974). From a practical perspective, there is a significant need for a systematically-designed Spanish nonword repetition measure that is equivalent to currently-available English measures. For this study, a database of nonwords that considered phonotactic and phonological properties of Spanish was devised. In a preliminary study, Spanish-speaking adults provided wordlikeness judgments about a large set of candidate nonwords.

A subset of the rated nonwords was used in the development of a Spanish nonword repetition measure. The aim of the main experiment was to explore the contributions of participant factors (age, gender, and vocabulary knowledge) and item factors (word length, stress pattern, and wordlikeness) to Spanish repetition performance in this group of Spanish speaking, English language learning children. From a theoretical perspective, this investigation allowed a first observation of how experience with listening to and producing Spanish words influences the acquisition of Spanish-specific phonological patterns. A total of 68 children, ages four to six years with varying degrees of Spanish language knowledge participated in this study. Results revealed significant age and word length effects. However, stress pattern did not exert significant effects on repetition performance, which is not completely consistent with previous literature.

That is, participants repeated nonwords from both the more frequent and the less frequent stress pattern with similar accuracy. Wordlikeness, a previously uninvestigated variable in nonword repetition was found to affect repetition accuracy. For all participants, nonwords rated as high in wordlikeness were more accurately repeated than were nonwords with low wordlikeness ratings. Findings of the study are discussed in terms of how they relate to working memory and usage-based models of phonological learning. Finally, the clinical relevance of nonword repetition in the assessment of coarse- and fine-grained mappings of phonological knowledge is suggested.

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