WORKING MEMORY AND SECOND LANGUAGE ACQUISITION: THE EFFECT OF UNFAMILIAR SOUND SEGMENTS ON VERBAL SHORT-TERM MEMORY
This paper reports on the experiment measuring the effect of foreign language sound segments on phonological short-term memory. The capacity of the phonological store and the accuracy of the representations is measured through a nonword repetition task in which participants reproduce two kinds of stimuli: L1-sounding nonwords, comprising first language phones exclusively and L2-sounding nonwords containing both native and foreign language phones. Responses were assessed according to a set of criteria which was devised to control for various production factors , in particular that of accent. The results show a significant difference between the recall of the two types of stimuli, which suggests that the presence of unfamiliar sound segments in the verbal input impairs the maintenance of short-term phonological representations and thus affects the whole process of second language acquisition. The study, at the same time, offers a novel methodological framework for further research on the role of working memory in vocabulary acquisition.
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