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Investigating the role of established linguistic knowledge in supporting short-term memory as measured by sentence repetition

Cohen, B; (2005) Investigating the role of established linguistic knowledge in supporting short-term memory as measured by sentence repetition. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Research provides evidence of correlations between measures of short-term memory (STM) and language abilities and, likewise, between deficits in STM and language. Yet the nature of the relationship between memory and language remains unclear. The phonological component of STM plays a role in the development of language, but linguistic knowledge in turn affects STM performance, with factors such as 'wordlikeness' and phonotactic probability influencing performance on single-word STM tasks. This study sought to investigate how established linguistic knowledge provides support for STM as measured by sentence recall. Using a design similar to that of Millar and Isard (1963), which compared the ability of adults to repeat grammatical sentences with those where semantic or syntactic rules had been violated, 4-6 year old children were asked to repeat grammatical, anomalous or ungrammatical sentences. The contribution of prosody was examined by presenting sentences with either regular or flat prosody. The results showed significantly fewer content words were repeated in anomalous compared to grammatical sentences, with a significant and even greater drop in ungrammatical sentences. Presenting sentences with flat as opposed to regular prosody also resulted in a significant reduction of correctly repeated content words across all three sentence types. These findings suggest that prosodic, semantic and, most dramatically, syntactic knowledge provide support for STM as measured in recall tasks. A qualitative analysis of error types and further exploratory investigations of sentence type and prosody at different sentence lengths were also carried out.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Investigating the role of established linguistic knowledge in supporting short-term memory as measured by sentence repetition
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Language and Cognition
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1569313
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