In prior work with adults, women were found to outperform men on a paired-associates word-learning task, but only when learning phonologically-familiar novel words. The goal of the present work was to examine whether similar gender differences in word learning would be observed in children. In addition to manipulating phonological familiarity, referent familiarity was also manipulated. Children between the ages of 5 and 7 learned phonologically-familiar or phonologically-unfamiliar novel words in association with pictures of familiar referents (animals) or unfamiliar referents (aliens). Retention was tested via a forced-choice recognition measure administered immediately after the learning phase. Analyses of retention data revealed stronger phonological and referent familiarity effects in girls than in boys. Moreover, girls outperformed boys only when learning phonologically-familiar novel words and when learning novel words in association with familiar referents. These findings are interpreted to suggest that females are more likely than males to recruit native-language phonological and semantic knowledge during novel word learning.
word learning; gender differences; phonology; semantics
The goal of this research was to examine whether phonological familiarity exerts different effects on novel word learning for familiar vs. unfamiliar referents, and whether successful word-learning is associated with increased second-language experience.
Eighty-one adult native English speakers with various levels of Spanish knowledge learned phonologically-familiar novel words (constructed using English sounds) or phonologically-unfamiliar novel words (constructed using non-English and non-Spanish sounds) in association with either familiar or unfamiliar referents. Retention was tested via a forced-choice recognition-task. A median-split procedure identified high-ability and low-ability word-learners in each condition, and the two groups were compared on measures of second-language experience.
Findings suggest that the ability to accurately match newly-learned novel names to their appropriate referents is facilitated by phonological familiarity only for familiar referents but not for unfamiliar referents. Moreover, more extensive second-language learning experience characterized superior learners primarily in one word-learning condition: Where phonologically-unfamiliar novel words were paired with familiar referents.
Together, these findings indicate that phonological familiarity facilitates novel word learning only for familiar referents, and that experience with learning a second language may have a specific impact on novel vocabulary learning in adults.
Verbal working memory is an essential component of many language functions, including sentence comprehension and word learning. As such, working memory has emerged as a domain of intense research interest both in aphasiology and in the broader field of cognitive neuroscience. The integrity of verbal working memory encoding relies on a fluid interaction between semantic and phonological processes. That is, we encode verbal detail using many cues related to both the sound and meaning of words. Lesion models can provide an effective means of parsing the contributions of phonological or semantic impairment to recall performance.
Methods and Procedures
We employed the lesion model approach here by contrasting the nature of lexicality errors incurred during recall of word and nonword sequences by 3individuals with progressive nonfluent aphasia (a phonological dominant impairment) compared to that of 2 individuals with semantic dementia (a semantic dominant impairment). We focused on psycholinguistic attributes of correctly recalled stimuli relative to those that elicited a lexicality error (i.e., nonword → word OR word → nonword).
Outcomes and results
Patients with semantic dementia showed greater sensitivity to phonological attributes (e.g., phoneme length, wordlikeness) of the target items relative to semantic attributes (e.g., familiarity). Patients with PNFA showed the opposite pattern, marked by sensitivity to word frequency, age of acquisition, familiarity, and imageability.
We interpret these results in favor of a processing strategy such that in the context of a focal phonological impairment patients revert to an over-reliance on preserved semantic processing abilities. In contrast, a focal semantic impairment forces both reliance upon and hypersensitivity to phonological attributes of target words. We relate this interpretation to previous hypotheses about the nature of verbal short-term memory in progressive aphasia.
Working Memory; Recall; Semantic Dementia; Aphasia; Progressive Nonfluent Aphasia
Current theories and models of the structural organization of verbal short-term memory are primarily based on evidence obtained from manipulations of features inherent m the short-term traces of the presented stimuli, such as phonological similarity. In the present study, we investigated whether properties of the stimuli that are not inherent in the short-term traces of spoken words would affect performance in an immediate memory span task. We studied the lexical neighbourhood properties of the stimulus items, which are based on the structure and organization of words in the mental lexicon. The experiments manipulated lexical competition by varying the phonological neighbourhood structure (i.e., neighbourhood density and neighbourhood frequency) of the words on a test list while controlling for word frequency and intra-set phonological similarity (family size). Immediate memory span for spoken words was measured under repeated and nonrepeated sampling procedures. The results demonstrated that lexical competition only emerged when a nonrepeated sampling procedure was used and the participants had to access new words from their lexicons. These findings were not dependent on individual differences in short-term memory capacity. Additional results showed that the lexical competition effects did not interact with proactive interference. Analyses of error patterns indicated that item-type errors, but not positional errors, were influenced by the lexical attributes of the stimulus items. These results complement and extend previous findings that have argued for separate contributions of long-term knowledge and short-term memory rehearsal processes in immediate verbal serial recall tasks.
In alphabetic languages, emerging evidence from behavioral and neuroimaging studies shows the rapid and automatic activation of phonological information in visual word recognition. In the mapping from orthography to phonology, unlike most alphabetic languages in which there is a natural correspondence between the visual and phonological forms, in logographic Chinese, the mapping between visual and phonological forms is rather arbitrary and depends on learning and experience. The issue of whether the phonological information is rapidly and automatically extracted in Chinese characters by the brain has not yet been thoroughly addressed.
We continuously presented Chinese characters differing in orthography and meaning to adult native Mandarin Chinese speakers to construct a constant varying visual stream. In the stream, most stimuli were homophones of Chinese characters: The phonological features embedded in these visual characters were the same, including consonants, vowels and the lexical tone. Occasionally, the rule of phonology was randomly violated by characters whose phonological features differed in the lexical tone.
We showed that the violation of the lexical tone phonology evoked an early, robust visual response, as revealed by whole-head electrical recordings of the visual mismatch negativity (vMMN), indicating the rapid extraction of phonological information embedded in Chinese characters. Source analysis revealed that the vMMN was involved in neural activations of the visual cortex, suggesting that the visual sensory memory is sensitive to phonological information embedded in visual words at an early processing stage.
Performance on three verbal measures (story recall, paired associated learning, category fluency) designed to assess the integration of long-term semantic and linguistic knowledge, phonological working memory and executive resources within the proposed ‘episodic buffer’ of working memory (Baddeley, 2007) was assessed in children with intellectual disabilities (ID). It was hypothesised that children with ID would show equivalent performance to typically developing children of the same mental age. This prediction was based on the hypothesis that, despite poorer phonological short-term memory than mental age matched peers, those with ID may benefit from more elaborate long-term memory representations, because of greater life experience. Children with ID were as able as mental age matched peers to remember stories, associate pairs of words together and generate appropriate items in a category fluency task. Performance did not, however, reach chronological age level on any of the tasks. The results suggest children with ID perform at mental age level on verbal ‘episodic buffer’ tasks, which require integration of information from difference sources, supporting a ‘delayed’ rather than ‘different’ view of their development.
Episodic buffer; Children; Intellectual disabilities; Working memory
The aim of the present study was to dissociate the neural correlates of semantic and phonological processes during word reading and picture naming. Previous studies have addressed this issue by contrasting tasks involving semantic and phonological decisions. However, these tasks engage verbal short-term memory and executive functions that are not required for reading and naming. Here, 20 subjects were instructed to overtly name written words and pictures of objects while their neuronal responses were measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Each trial consisted of a pair of successive stimuli that were either semantically related (e.g., “ROBIN-nest”), phonologically related (e.g., “BELL-belt”), unrelated (e.g., “KITE-lobster”), or semantically and phonologically identical (e.g., “FRIDGE-fridge”). In addition, a pair of stimuli could be presented in either the same modality (word-word or picture-picture) or a different modality (word-picture or picture-word). We report that semantically related pairs modulate neuronal responses in a left-lateralized network, including the pars orbitalis of the inferior frontal gyrus, the middle temporal gyrus, the angular gyrus, and the superior frontal gyrus. We propose that these areas are involved in stimulus-driven semantic processes. In contrast, phonologically related pairs modulate neuronal responses in bilateral insula. This region is therefore implicated in the discrimination of similar, competing phonological and articulatory codes. The above effects were detected with both words and pictures and did not differ between the two modalities even with a less conservative statistical threshold. In conclusion, this study dissociates the effects of semantic and phonological relatedness between successive items during reading and naming aloud. Hum Brain Mapp, 2007. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
fMRI; language; phonology; semantics; reading; naming
Individuals learn to read by gradually recognizing repeated letter combinations. However, it is unclear how or when neural mechanisms associated with repetition of basic stimuli (i.e., strings of letters) shift to involvement of higher-order language networks. The present study investigated this question by repeatedly presenting unfamiliar letter strings in a one-back matching task during an hour-long period. Activation patterns indicated that only brain areas associated with visual processing were activated during the early period, but additional regions that are usually associated with semantic and phonological processing in inferior frontal gyrus were recruited after stimuli became more familiar. Changes in activation were also observed in bilateral superior temporal cortex, also suggestive of a shift toward a more language-based processing strategy. Connectivity analyses reveal two distinct networks that correspond to phonological and visual processing, which may reflect the indirect and direct routes of reading. The phonological route maintained a similar degree of connectivity throughout the experiment, whereas visual areas increased connectivity with language areas as stimuli became more familiar, suggesting early recruitment of the direct route. This study provides insight about plasticity of the brain as individuals become familiar with unfamiliar combinations of letters (i.e., words in a new language, new acronyms) and has implications for engaging these linguistic networks during development of language remediation therapies.
letter strings; fMRI; connectivity; reading; learning; plasticity
Prior research has put forth at least four possible contributors to the verbal short-term memory (VSTM) deficit in children with developmental reading disabilities (RD): poor phonological awareness which affects phonological coding into VSTM, a less effective phonological store, slow articulation rate, and fewer/poorer quality long-term memory (LTM) representations. This project is among the first to test the four suppositions in one study. Participants included 18 children with RD and 18 controls. VSTM was assessed using Baddeley’s model of the phonological loop. Findings suggest all four suppositions are correct, depending upon the type of material utilized. Children with RD performed comparably to controls in VSTM for common words but worse for less frequent words and nonwords. Furthermore, only articulation rate predicted VSTM for common words, whereas Verbal IQ and articulation rate predicted VSTM for less frequent words, and phonological awareness and articulation rate predicted VSTM for nonwords. Overall, findings suggest that the mechanism(s) used to code and store items by their meaning is intact in RD, and the deficit in VSTM for less frequent words may be a result of fewer/poorer quality LTM representations for these words. In contrast, phonological awareness and the phonological store are impaired, affecting VSTM for items that are coded phonetically. Slow articulation rate likely affects VSTM for most material when present. When assessing reading performance, VSTM predicted decoding skill but not word identification after controlling Verbal IQ and phonological awareness. Thus, VSTM likely contributes to reading ability when words are novel and must be decoded.
learning disabilities; reading disabilities; dyslexia; phonological awareness; short-term memory; verbal learning; children; adolescents
In order to explore verbal–nonverbal integration, we investigated the influence of cognitive and linguistic ability on gaze behavior during spoken language conversation between children with mild-to-moderate hearing impairment (HI) and normal-hearing (NH) peers. Ten HI–NH and 10 NH-NH dyads performed a referential communication task requiring description of faces. During task performance, eye movements and speech were tracked. Cox proportional hazards regression was used to model associations between performance on cognitive and linguistic tasks and the probability of gaze to the conversational partner’s face. Analyses compare the listeners in each dyad (HI: n = 10, mean age = 12; 6 years, SD = 2; 0, mean better ear pure-tone average 33.0 dB HL, SD = 7.8; NH: n = 10, mean age = 13; 7 years, SD = 1; 11). Group differences in gaze behavior – with HI gazing more to the conversational partner than NH – remained significant despite adjustment for ability on receptive grammar, expressive vocabulary, and complex working memory. Adjustment for phonological short term memory, as measured by non-word repetition, removed group differences, revealing an interaction between group membership and non-word repetition ability. Stratified analysis showed a twofold increase of the probability of gaze-to-partner for HI with low phonological short term memory capacity, and a decreased probability for HI with high capacity, as compared to NH peers. The results revealed differences in gaze behavior attributable to performance on a phonological short term memory task. Participants with HI and low phonological short term memory capacity showed a doubled probability of gaze to the conversational partner, indicative of a visual bias. The results stress the need to look beyond the HI in diagnostics and intervention. Acknowledgment of the finding requires clinical assessment of children with HI to be supported by tasks tapping phonological processing.
child hearing impairment; gaze behavior; referential communication; eye tracking; non-word repetition; phonological short term memory; Cox regression
Background & Aims
The present study examined how phonological and lexical knowledge influences memory in children with specific language impairments (SLI). Previous work showed recall advantages for typical adults and children due to word frequency and phonotactic pattern frequency and a recall disadvantage due to phonological similarity among words. While children with SLI have well documented memory difficulties, it is not clear whether these language knowledge factors also influence recall in this population.
Methods & Procedures
16 children with SLI (mean age 10;2) and CAM controls recalled lists of words differing in phonological similarity, word frequency, and phonotactic pattern frequency. While previous studies used a small set of words appearing in multiple word lists, the current study used a larger set of words, without replacement, so that children could not gain practice with individual test items.
Outcomes & Results
All main effects were significant. Interactions revealed that children with SLI were affected by similarity, but less so than their peers, comparably affected by word frequency, and unaffected by phonotactic pattern frequency.
Results due to phonological similarity suggest that children with SLI use less efficient encoding, while results due to word frequency and phonotactic pattern frequency were mixed. Children with SLI used coarse-grained language knowledge (word frequency) comparably to peers, but were less able to use fine-grained knowledge (phonotactic pattern frequency). Paired with phonological similarity results, this suggests that children with SLI have difficulty establishing robust phonological knowledge for use in language tasks.
verbal memory; specific language impairment; phonological similarity; word frequency; phonotactic pattern frequency
This study investigated whether phonological or semantic encoding cues improved the fast mapping or word learning performance of preschoolers with specific language impairment (SLI) or typical development (TD) and whether performance varied for words containing high- or low-frequency sublexical sequences that named familiar or unfamiliar objects.
Forty-two preschoolers with SLI, 42 preschoolers with TD matched for age and gender to children with SLI, and 41 preschoolers with TD matched for expressive vocabulary and gender to children with SLI learned words in a supported learning context. Fast mapping, word learning, and post-task performance were assessed.
Encoding cues had no effect on fast mapping performance for any group, nor on the number of words children learned to comprehend. Encoding cues appeared to be detrimental to word production for children with TD. Across groups a clear learning advantage was observed for words with low-frequency sequences and to a lesser extent, words associated with an unfamiliar object.
Results suggest that phonotactic probability and previous lexical knowledge affect word learning in similar ways for children with TD and SLI and that encoding cues were not beneficial for any group.
The goals of this project were threefold: to determine the nature of the memory deficit in children/adolescents with dyslexia, to utilize clinical memory measures in this endeavor, and to determine the extent to which semantic short-term memory (STM) is related to basic reading performance. Two studies were conducted using different samples, one incorporating the Wide Range Assessment of Memory and Learning and the other incorporating the California Verbal Learning Test-Children's Version. Results suggest that phonological STM is deficient in children with dyslexia, but semantic STM and visual–spatial STM are intact. Long-term memory (LTM) for both visual and verbal material also is intact. Regarding reading performance, semantic STM had small correlations with word identification and pseudoword decoding across studies despite phonological STM being moderately to strongly related to both basic reading skills. Overall, results are consistent with the phonological core deficit model of dyslexia as only phonological STM was affected in dyslexia and related to basic reading skill.
Dyslexia; Reading disabilities; Child; Adolescent; Short-term memory; Long-term memory
Memory traces for words are frequently conceptualized neurobiologically as networks of neurons interconnected via reciprocal links developed through associative learning in the process of language acquisition. Neurophysiological reflection of activation of such memory traces has been reported using the mismatch negativity brain potential (MMN), which demonstrates an enhanced response to meaningful words over meaningless items. This enhancement is believed to be generated by the activation of strongly intraconnected long-term memory circuits for words that can be automatically triggered by spoken linguistic input and that are absent for unfamiliar phonological stimuli. This conceptual framework critically predicts different amounts of activation depending on the strength of the word's lexical representation in the brain. The frequent use of words should lead to more strongly connected representations, whereas less frequent items would be associated with more weakly linked circuits. A word with higher frequency of occurrence in the subject's language should therefore lead to a more pronounced lexical MMN response than its low-frequency counterpart. We tested this prediction by comparing the event-related potentials elicited by low- and high-frequency words in a passive oddball paradigm; physical stimulus contrasts were kept identical. We found that, consistent with our prediction, presenting the high-frequency stimulus led to a significantly more pronounced MMN response relative to the low-frequency one, a finding that is highly similar to previously reported MMN enhancement to words over meaningless pseudowords. Furthermore, activation elicited by the higher-frequency word peaked earlier relative to low-frequency one, suggesting more rapid access to frequently used lexical entries. These results lend further support to the above view on word memory traces as strongly connected assemblies of neurons. The speed and magnitude of their activation appears to be linked to the strength of internal connections in a memory circuit, which is in turn determined by the everyday use of language elements.
This study investigated whether auditory, speech perception, and phonological skills are tightly interrelated or independently contributing to reading. We assessed each of these three skills in 36 adults with a past diagnosis of dyslexia and 54 matched normal reading adults. Phonological skills were tested by the typical threefold tasks, i.e., rapid automatic naming, verbal short-term memory and phonological awareness. Dynamic auditory processing skills were assessed by means of a frequency modulation (FM) and an amplitude rise time (RT); an intensity discrimination task (ID) was included as a non-dynamic control task. Speech perception was assessed by means of sentences and words-in-noise tasks. Group analyses revealed significant group differences in auditory tasks (i.e., RT and ID) and in phonological processing measures, yet no differences were found for speech perception. In addition, performance on RT discrimination correlated with reading but this relation was mediated by phonological processing and not by speech-in-noise. Finally, inspection of the individual scores revealed that the dyslexic readers showed an increased proportion of deviant subjects on the slow-dynamic auditory and phonological tasks, yet each individual dyslexic reader does not display a clear pattern of deficiencies across the processing skills. Although our results support phonological and slow-rate dynamic auditory deficits which relate to literacy, they suggest that at the individual level, problems in reading and writing cannot be explained by the cascading auditory theory. Instead, dyslexic adults seem to vary considerably in the extent to which each of the auditory and phonological factors are expressed and interact with environmental and higher-order cognitive influences.
dyslexia; literacy; phonological processing; speech perception; auditory processing; amplitude rise time; frequency modulation
This fMRI study used a single, multi-factorial, within-subjects design to dissociate multiple linguistic and non-linguistic processing areas that are all involved in repeating back heard words. The study compared: (1) auditory to visual inputs; (2) phonological to non-phonological inputs; (3) semantic to non-semantic inputs; and (4) speech production to finger-press responses. The stimuli included words (semantic and phonological inputs), pseudowords (phonological input), pictures and sounds of animals or objects (semantic input), and colored patterns and hums (non-semantic and non-phonological). The speech production tasks involved auditory repetition, reading, and naming while the finger press tasks involved one-back matching. The results from the main effects and interactions were compared to predictions from a previously reported functional anatomical model of language based on a meta-analysis of many different neuroimaging experiments. Although many findings from the current experiment replicated many of those predicted, our within-subject design also revealed novel results by providing sufficient anatomical precision to dissect several different regions within the anterior insula, pars orbitalis, anterior cingulate, SMA, and cerebellum. For example, we found one part of the pars orbitalis was involved in phonological processing and another in semantic processing. We also dissociated four different types of phonological effects in the left superior temporal sulcus (STS), left putamen, left ventral premotor cortex, and left pars orbitalis. Our findings challenge some of the commonly-held opinions on the functional anatomy of language, and resolve some previously conflicting findings about specific brain regions—and our experimental design reveals details of the word repetition process that are not well captured by current models.
fMRI; language; auditory word repetition
Verbal short-term memory (STM) impairments are invariably present in aphasia. Word processing involves a minimal form of verbal STM, i.e., the time course over which semantic and phonological representations are activated and maintained until they are comprehended, produced, or repeated. Thus it is reasonable that impairments of word processing and verbal STM may co-occur. The co-occurrence of language and STM impairments in aphasia has motivated an active area of research that has revealed much about the relationship of these two systems and the effect of their impairment on language function and verbal learning (Freedman & Martin, 2001; Martin & Saffran, 1999; Trojano & Grossi, 1995). In keeping with this view a number of researchers have developed treatment protocols to improve verbal STM in order to improve language function (e.g., Koenig-Bruhin & Studer-Eichenberger, 2007). This account of aphasia predicts that treatment of a fundamental ability, such as STM, which supports language function, should lead to improvements that generalise to content and tasks beyond those implemented in treatment.
We investigated the efficacy of a treatment for language impairment that targets two language support processes: verbal short-term memory (STM) and executive processing, in the context of a language task (repetition). We hypothesised that treatment of these abilities would improve repetition abilities and performance on other language tasks that require STM.
A single-participant, multiple-baseline, multiple-probe design across behaviours was used with a participant with conduction aphasia. The treatment involved repetition of words and nonwords under three “interval” conditions, which varied the time between hearing and repeating the stimulus. Measures of treatment effects included acquisition, maintenance, and follow-up data, effect sizes, and pre- and post-treatment performance on a test battery that varies the STM and executive function demands of language tasks.
Outcomes & Results
Improvement of repetition was mostly specific to treated stimuli. Post-treatment measures of language ability indicated improvements in single and multiple word processing tasks, verbal working memory tasks, and verbal span.
Treatment of STM and executive processes in the context of a word repetition task resulted in improvements in other non-treated language tasks. The approach used in this study can be incorporated into other language-processing tasks typically used in treatment of language disorders (e.g., sentence processing).
Verbal short-term memory; Language processing; Treatment; Aphasia
Children’s memories for the link between a newly trained word and its referent have been the focus of extensive past research. However, memory for the word form itself is rarely assessed among preschool-age children. When it is, children are typically asked to verbally recall the forms, and they generally perform at floor on such tests. To better measure children’s memory for word forms, we aimed to design a more sensitive test that required recognition rather than recall, provided spatial cues to off-set the phonological memory demands of the test, and allowed pointing rather than verbal responses. We taught 12 novel word-referent pairs via ostensive naming to sixteen 4- to 6-year-olds and measured their memory for the word forms after a week-long retention interval using the new spatially supported form recognition test. We also measured their memory for the word-referent links and the generalization of the links to untrained referents with commonly used recognition tests. Children demonstrated memory for word forms at above chance levels; however, their memory for forms was poorer than their memory for trained or generalized word-referent links. When in error, children were no more likely to select a foil that was a close neighbor to the target form than a maximally different foil. Additionally, they more often selected correct forms that were among the first six than the last six to be trained. Overall, these findings suggest that children are able to remember word forms after a limited number of ostensive exposures and a long-term delay. However, word forms remain more difficult to learn than word-referent links and there is an upper limit on the number of forms that can be learned within a given period of time.
word learning; fast mapping; memory; word form; recognition
A large-scale study of 484 elementary school children (6–10 years) performing word repetition tasks in their native language (L1-Japanese) and a second language (L2-English) was conducted using functional near-infrared spectroscopy. Three factors presumably associated with cortical activation, language (L1/L2), word frequency (high/low), and hemisphere (left/right), were investigated. L1 words elicited significantly greater brain activation than L2 words, regardless of semantic knowledge, particularly in the superior/middle temporal and inferior parietal regions (angular/supramarginal gyri). The greater L1-elicited activation in these regions suggests that they are phonological loci, reflecting processes tuned to the phonology of the native language, while phonologically unfamiliar L2 words were processed like nonword auditory stimuli. The activation was bilateral in the auditory and superior/middle temporal regions. Hemispheric asymmetry was observed in the inferior frontal region (right dominant), and in the inferior parietal region with interactions: low-frequency words elicited more right-hemispheric activation (particularly in the supramarginal gyrus), while high-frequency words elicited more left-hemispheric activation (particularly in the angular gyrus). The present results reveal the strong involvement of a bilateral language network in children’s brains depending more on right-hemispheric processing while acquiring unfamiliar/low-frequency words. A right-to-left shift in laterality should occur in the inferior parietal region, as lexical knowledge increases irrespective of language.
foreign language; functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS); learning; native language; phonology
In two experiments, 1.5 year olds were taught novel words whose sound patterns were phonologically similar to familiar words (novel neighbors) or were not (novel nonneighbors). Learning was tested using a picture fixation task. In both experiments, children learned the novel nonneighbors but not the novel neighbors. In addition, exposure to the novel neighbors impaired recognition performance on familiar neighbors. Finally, children did not spontaneously use phonological differences to infer that a novel word referred to a novel object. Thus, lexical competition—inhibitory interaction among words in speech comprehension—can prevent children from using their full phonological sensitivity in judging words as novel. These results suggest that word learning in young children, as in adults, relies not only on the discrimination and identification of phonetic categories, but also on evaluating the likelihood that an utterance conveys a new word.
word learning; language acquisition; phonology; categorization; child development
We investigated word learning in university and college students with a diagnosis of dyslexia and in typically-reading controls. Participants read aloud short (4-letter) and longer (7-letter) nonwords as quickly as possible. The nonwords were repeated across 10 blocks, using a different random order in each block. Participants returned 7 days later and repeated the experiment. Accuracy was high in both groups. The dyslexics were substantially slower than the controls at reading the nonwords throughout the experiment. They also showed a larger length effect, indicating less effective decoding skills. Learning was demonstrated by faster reading of the nonwords across repeated presentations and by a reduction in the difference in reading speeds between shorter and longer nonwords. The dyslexics required more presentations of the nonwords before the length effect became non-significant, only showing convergence in reaction times between shorter and longer items in the second testing session where controls achieved convergence part-way through the first session. Participants also completed a psychological test battery assessing reading and spelling, vocabulary, phonological awareness, working memory, nonverbal ability and motor speed. The dyslexics performed at a similar level to the controls on nonverbal ability but significantly less well on all the other measures. Regression analyses found that decoding ability, measured as the speed of reading aloud nonwords when they were presented for the first time, was predicted by a composite of word reading and spelling scores (“literacy”). Word learning was assessed in terms of the improvement in naming speeds over 10 blocks of training. Learning was predicted by vocabulary and working memory scores, but not by literacy, phonological awareness, nonverbal ability or motor speed. The results show that young dyslexic adults have problems both in pronouncing novel words and in learning new written words.
word learning; reading; dyslexia; word length; repetition; working memory; phonological awareness
The current study examined the phonological and semantic contributions to the verbal short-term memory (VSTM) deficit in Down syndrome (DS) by experimentally manipulating the phonological and semantic demands of VSTM tasks. The performance of 18 individuals with DS (ages 11–25) and 18 typically developing children (ages 3–10) matched pairwise on receptive vocabulary and gender was compared on four VSTM tasks, two tapping phonological VSTM (phonological similarity, nonword discrimination) and two tapping semantic VSTM (semantic category, semantic proactive interference). Group by condition interactions were found on the two phonological VSTM tasks (suggesting less sensitivity to the phonological qualities of words in DS), but not on the two semantic VSTM tasks. These findings suggest that a phonological weakness contributes to the VSTM deficit in DS. These results are discussed in relation to the DS neuropsychological and neuroanatomical phenotype.
Down syndrome; Verbal short-term memory; Phonology; Semantics
This study investigated whether previous findings of a low phonotactic probability/unfamiliar object word learning advantage in preschoolers could be replicated, whether this advantage would be apparent at different ‘stages’ of word learning, and whether findings would differ for preschoolers with specific language impairment (SLI) and typical development (TD).
One hundred fourteen children participated: 40 with SLI, 39 with TD matched for age and gender, and 35 with TD matched for expressive vocabulary and gender. Comprehension and production were assessed during word learning and at post-test for words that varied in phonotactic probability and object familiarity.
Across groups, comprehension performance increased significantly from days 1–3, but there was no significant word/object type effect. Production performance increased significantly for days 1–4 for all groups and there was a clear low phonotactic probability/unfamiliar object advantage during word learning, but not at post-test.
Results help to establish that preschoolers with TD and SLI show a low phonotactic probability/unfamiliar object production advantage during word learning that is not restricted to the first few exposures to words, but continues over time. This study illustrates how the interaction of phonological characteristics in nascent and extant words can affect word learning.
Previous attempts to investigate the effects of semantic tasks on picture naming in both healthy controls and people with aphasia have typically been confounded by inclusion of the phonological word form of the target item. As a result, it is difficult to isolate any facilitatory effects of a semantically-focused task to either lexical-semantic or phonological processing. This functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study examined the neurological mechanisms underlying short-term (within minutes) and long-term (within days) facilitation of naming from a semantic task that did not include the phonological word form, in both participants with aphasia and age-matched controls.
Behavioral results showed that a semantic task that did not include the phonological word form can successfully facilitate subsequent picture naming in both healthy controls and individuals with aphasia. The whole brain neuroimaging results for control participants identified a repetition enhancement effect in the short-term, with modulation of activity found in regions that have not traditionally been associated with semantic processing, such as the right lingual gyrus (extending to the precuneus) and the left inferior occipital gyrus (extending to the fusiform gyrus). In contrast, the participants with aphasia showed significant differences in activation over both the short- and the long-term for facilitated items, predominantly within either left hemisphere regions linked to semantic processing or their right hemisphere homologues.
For control participants in this study, the short-lived facilitation effects of a prior semantic task that did not include the phonological word form were primarily driven by object priming and episodic memory mechanisms. However, facilitation effects appeared to engage a predominantly semantic network in participants with aphasia over both the short- and the long-term. The findings of the present study also suggest that right hemisphere involvement may be supportive rather than maladaptive, and that a large distributed perisylvian network in both cerebral hemispheres supports the facilitation of naming in individuals with aphasia.
Aphasia; Semantic verification; fMRI; Overt picture naming; Semantics
Language performance in aphasia can vary depending on several variables such as stimulus characteristics and task demands. This study focuses on the degree of verbal working memory (WM) load inherent in the language task and how this variable affects language performance by individuals with aphasia.
The first aim was to identify the effects of increased verbal WM load on the performance of judgments of semantic similarity (synonymy) and phonological similarity (rhyming). The second aim was to determine if any of the following abilities could modulate the verbal WM load effect: semantic or phonological access, semantic or phonological short-term memory (STM) and any of the following executive processing abilities: inhibition, verbal WM updating, and set shifting.
Method and Procedures
Thirty-one individuals with aphasia and 11 controls participated in this study. They were administered a synonymy judgment task and a rhyming judgment task under high and low verbal WM load conditions that were compared to each other. In a second set of analyses, multiple regression was used to identify which factors (as noted above) modulated the verbal WM load effect.
Outcome and Results
For participants with aphasia, increased verbal WM load significantly reduced accuracy of performance on synonymy and rhyming judgments. Better performance in the low verbal WM load conditions was evident even after correcting for chance. The synonymy task included concrete and abstract word triplets. When these were examined separately, the verbal WM load effect was significant for the abstract words, but not the concrete words. The same pattern was observed in the performance of the control participants. Additionally, the second set of analyses revealed that semantic STM and one executive function, inhibition ability, emerged as the strongest predictors of the verbal WM load effect in these judgment tasks for individuals with aphasia.
The results of this study have important implications for diagnosis and treatment of aphasia. As the roles of verbal STM capacity, executive functions and verbal WM load in language processing are better understood, measurements of these variables can be incorporated into our diagnostic protocols. Moreover, if cognitive abilities such as STM and executive functions support language processing and their impairment adversely affects language function, treating them directly in the context of language tasks should translate into improved language function.