Journal of Psycholinguistic Research

, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp 75–92 | Cite as

The Role of the Phonological Loop in English Word Learning: A Comparison of Chinese ESL Learners and Native Speakers



Although the role of the phonological loop in word-retention is well documented, research in Chinese character retention suggests the involvement of non-phonological encoding. This study investigated whether the extent to which the phonological loop contributes to learning and remembering visually introduced words varies between college-level Chinese ESL learners (N = 20) and native speakers of English (N = 20). The groups performed a paired associative learning task under two conditions (control versus articulatory suppression) with two word types (regularly spelled versus irregularly spelled words) differing in degree of phonological accessibility. The results demonstrated that both groups’ recall declined when the phonological loop was made less available (with irregularly spelled words and in the articulatory suppression condition), but the decline was greater for the native group. These results suggest that word learning entails phonological encoding uniformly across learners, but the contribution of phonology varies among learners with diverse linguistic backgrounds.


L2 word learning Lexical memory Phonological loop L2 print processing Writing systems 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ball State UniversityMuncieUSA
  2. 2.Carnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburghUSA

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