Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



College of Education and Human Services


Communication Sciences and Disorders

Committee Chair

Michelle W. Moore

Committee Co-Chair

Jeremy J. Donai

Committee Member

Norman J. Lass

Committee Member

Dennis M. Ruscello


Language learning has been attributed to multiple aspects of cognition; two primary components are phonological short-term memory and long-term knowledge. Short-term memory is responsible for the temporary storage and rehearsal of new information, and long-term knowledge is responsible for storing information gained throughout the lifetime. If one or both of these areas are found to be deficient, language impairments may be present. Although the role of short-term memory and long-term knowledge has been identified as important, their relative contributions to different language processes are not completely understood. This study used a novel within-subjects approach to examine the impact of long-term phonological knowledge (operationalized by contrasting early-developing and late-developing phonemes) on learning new words. Thirty students from West Virginia University completed a nonword repetition task and a word learning paradigm both containing nonwords comprising of only early- or only later-developing phonemes. Results revealed a significant difference of phoneme type in both the nonword repetition and word learning tasks, with lower accuracies for nonwords containing only later-developing phonemes. This study shows how the relative quality of long-term phonological knowledge can impact word learning abilities even for typical individuals, and it has implications for the theoretical constructs of language development and language impairment.