Articulating Novel Words: Children's Oromotor Skills Predict Nonword Repetition Abilities

Saloni Krishnan, Katherine J. Alcock, Evelyne Mercure, Robert Leech, Edward Barker, Annette Karmiloff-Smith, Frederic Dick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Pronouncing a novel word for the first time requires the transformation of a newly encoded speech signal into a series of coordinated, exquisitely timed oromotor movements. Individual differences in children's ability to repeat novel nonwords are associated with vocabulary development and later literacy. Nonword repetition (NWR) is often used to test clinical populations. While phonological/auditory memory contributions to learning and pronouncing nonwords have been extensively studied, much less is known about the contribution of children's oromotor skills to this process. Method: Two independent cohorts of children (7-13 years [N = 40] and 6.9-7.7 years [N = 37]) were tested on a battery of linguistic and nonlinguistic tests, including NWR and oromotor tasks. Results: In both cohorts, individual differences in oromotor control were a significant contributor to NWR abilities; moreover, in an omnibus analysis including experimental and standardized tasks, oromotor control predicted the most unique variance in NWR. Conclusion: Results indicate that nonlinguistic oromotor skills contribute to children's NWR ability and suggest that important aspects of language learning and consequent language deficits may be rooted in the ability to perform complex sensorimotor transformations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1800-1812
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2013


  • Development
  • Language
  • Language disorders
  • Phonology
  • Speech motor control
  • Speech production

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