Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Bridget Ryalls

Second Advisor

Stephen R. Paige

Third Advisor

Ellen L. Jacobs


Presently, investigators believe that variability in children’s word learning results from individual differences in one of two separate processes thought to underlie word learning: phonological sensitivity or phonological memory. Traditionally, researchers have viewed differences in children’s vocabularies as being the result of differences in either phonological memory or phonological sensitivity. However, there is reason to believe that a different type of relation exists among phonological sensitivity, phonological memory, and vocabulaiy. The purpose of this investigation was to determine the nature of these relations in preschoolers. Three hypotheses were presented: either phonological memory or phonological sensitivity plays a larger role in word learning, phonological sensitivity and phonological memory both are important variables underlying differences in vocabulary learning, but each variable exerts the bulk of its influence at different points in development, or a mediated relation exists among phonological sensitivity, phonological memory, and word knowledge. Results were in partial support of Hypotheses I and II: a main effect of phonological sensitivity was found, while an age by phonological memory interaction was observed. No support was found for Hypothesis III.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of Psychology and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha.

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