Vigo International Journal of Applied Linguistics VIAL

Agnieszka Skrzypek (1) and David Singleton (2). Productive knowledge of English collocations in adult Polish learners: The role of short-term memory. VIAL. Number 10/2013: 105-129.


The relationship between vocabulary knowledge and the ability to repeat small amounts of verbal information has been the focus of intense research. Significant positive correlations have been reported between scores representing vocabulary knowledge and scores representing the ability to repeat nonwords or lists of nonwords. In cross-lagged correlational studies, phonological short-term memory (PSTM) has been shown causally to affect subsequent vocabulary knowledge in L1 acquisition as well as in L2 learning at lower but not higher proficiency levels. At higher proficiency levels, performance on vocabulary tasks has been shown to be facilitated by the growth of the mental lexicon (and growing knowledge of phonological regularities), and to exhibit a reduced impact of PSTM capacity. With respect to L2 collocations, prior to the current study the impact of PSTM on L2 collocational knowledge had not been explored in instructed L2 learning. On the one hand, it is plausible to speculate that the link between PSTM and L2 collocations diminishes with increasing L2 proficiency; on the other, it is also possible that at post-elementary levels of proficiency, with increasing automaticity of lexical knowledge, PSTM may be redeployed for the learning of more complex structures. The current study detected a significant relationship between PSTM and subsequent collocation knowledge at both elementary (A2) and pre-intermediate (B1) proficiency levels in adult L2 learning.

Keywords: phonological short-term memory, verbal short-term memory, working memory, sequence learning, L2 collocations, adult L2 learning.

(1) University of Limerick, (2) Trinity College Dublin, Ireland.

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