The Effects of Lexical Knowledge on Nonword Repetition

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Chisholm, Gina
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The present study examined the influence of long-term lexical memory on young children's performances on nonword repetition tasks. Children's responses on a nonword repetition task from a prior study (Metsala, 1999) were analyzed for 3 age groups (Mage = 51, 70, and 78 months). Syllables from 2-, 3-, and 4-syllable nonwords were entered into a database to determine the lexical status of each syllable (word or nonword) and neighborhood densities (number of similarly sounding words for a target syllable). In addition, errors made on the nonword syllables were analyzed to determine error types (word substituted for nonword target or nonword substituted for word target) and error densities. Findings supported the position that lexical memory influences nonword repetition across the four main hypotheses. First, word syllables within nonwords were repeated correctly more often than nonword syllables for the longest nonwords. Young children were less accurate than the two older groups at repeating nonword syllables, but there were no developmental differences for word syllables. Second, the young and middle groups of children more frequently substituted a word for a nonword target than a nonword for a word target; however, this effect was absent for the oldest group of children. Third, children were more accurate at repeating syllables from dense than sparse neighborhoods for 3- and 4-syllable nonwords. Finally, the mean density of children's errors across each target syllable was higher than the target densities. Results are discussed within the broader context of lexical development and provide further support for the proposition that individual differences on nonword repetition tasks are largely accounted for by children's vocabulary knowledge.
School children -- Psychology , Memory in children -- United States , Word recognition -- Ability testing