The Effect of Morphological Complexity on Verbal Working Memory: Results from Arabic Speaking Children

Ravit Cohen-Mimran, Jasmeen Adwan-Mansour, Shimon Sapir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

To examine the role of morphology in verbal working memory. Forty nine children, all native speakers of Arabic from the same region and of the same dialect, performed a Listening Word Span Task, whereby they had to recall Arabic uninflected words (i.e., base words), inflected words with regular (possessive) morphology, or inflected words with irregular (broken plural) morphology. Each of these words was at the end of a sentence (henceforth, target word). The participant's task was to listen to a series of sentences and then recall the target words. Recall of inflected words was significantly poorer than uninflected words, and recall of words with regular morphology was significantly poorer than recall of words with irregular morphology. These findings, albeit preliminary, suggest a role of morphology in verbal working memory. They also suggest that, at least in Arabic, regular morphological forms are decomposed into their component elements and hence impose an extra load on the central executive and episodic buffer components of working memory. Furthermore, in concert with findings from other studies, they suggest that the effect of morphology on working memory is probably language-specific. The clinical implications of the present findings are addressed.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)239-253
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Psycholinguistic Research
Volume42
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2013

Keywords

  • Arabic
  • Children
  • Morphology
  • Working memory

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • General Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language

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