Evidence for Preserved Novel Word Learning in Down Syndrome Suggests Multiple Routes to Vocabulary Acquisition

Mosse, Emma K.; Jarrold, Christopher; McGregor, Karla
August 2011
Journal of Speech, Language & Hearing Research;Aug2011, Vol. 54 Issue 4, p1137
Academic Journal
Purpose: Three studies investigated novel word learning, some requiring phonological production, each involving between 11 and 17 individuals with Down syndrome, and between 15 and 24 typically developing individuals matched for receptive vocabulary. The effect of stimuli wordlikeness and incidental procedure-based memory demands were examined to see whether these may account for an apparent impairment in word learning in Down syndrome demonstrated in earlier research. Method: Paired associate word and nonword learning tasks were presented, requiring participants to learn the names of novel characters. The nonword stimuli varied in the degree of word likeness in 2 studies. A third study investigated extraneous task demand. Results: Across 3 studies, there was no suggestion of a word learning deficit associated with Down syndrome (й[sub 2p] for the main effect of group of .03, .11, and .03, respectively), despite the level of phonological representation required. There was evidence that novel word learning by participants with Down syndrome exceeded that which their verbal short-term memory capacity would predict. Conclusions: Vocabulary acquisition in Down syndrome may not rely on verbal short-term memory to the same extent as in typically developing children, lending support to the suggestion that new word learning may be underpinned by an additional memory process.


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