1 Running head: How modular is WM? Modularity, working memory and language acquisition Alan D. Baddeley Department of Psychology, University of York Correspondence should be addressed to: Alan Baddeley, Department of Psychology, University of York, Heslington, York YO10 5DD, email: [email protected] 2 Abstract The concept of modularity is used to contrasting the approach to working memory proposed by Truscott and the Baddeley and Hitch multicomponent approach to working memory. This proposes four subcomponents, an executive control system of limited attentional capacity that utilises storage based on separate but interlinked subsystems concerned with the temporary storage of verbal materials, visual materials, together with a fourth component the episodic buffer which allows the various components to interact and become available to conscious awareness. After a brief description of the relevance of this to language acquisition, an account is given of the way in which the model has developed in recent years and its relationship to other approaches to working memory. 3 I was pleased to be invited to contribute to this Special Issue since second language acquisition has played an important part in the development of the multicomponent model of working memory first proposed by Graham Hitch and myself (Baddeley & Hitch, 1974). One of the three initial components of our model subsequently termed the phonological loop initially gave a good account of laboratory-based experimental data but left open the question of what evolutionary function it might serve. The chance to investigate this came through access to a neuropsychological patient with a very specific deficit to this system. Our first hypothesis was that it would be necessary for language comprehension or production. We found little evidence for this except in the case of highly atypical artificially developed sentences (Vallar & Baddeley, 1984). We went on to propose that it could be important for the initial phonologicallybased acquisition of language, finding that the capacity to learn to associate pairs of words in her native language was normal, while her capacity to acquire vocabulary items in a second language was grossly impaired (Baddeley, Papagno & Vallar, 1988). We also found that disrupting the phonological loop in healthy people hindered second language vocabulary acquisition while having no effect on learning pairs of unrelated words in a native language (Papagno, Valentine & Baddeley (1991). Later studies largely in collaboration with Susan Gathercole demonstrated that children identified as having specific language impairment appeared to have a deficit in their phonological loop capacity and that the acquisition of native vocabulary in healthy children was correlated with the capacity of their phonological loop, particularly as measured by their ability to repeat back polysyllabic nonwords (Gathercole & Baddeley, 1989; 1990). This and related work is summarised in two reviews, one aimed principally at 4 psychologists (Baddeley, Gathercole & Papagno, 1998) and a second for a broader range of readers (Baddeley, 2003). While I have not had access to the bulk of the contributions to the Special Issue, it was suggested that I might reflect on the rather different approach to working memory taken in the paper by XXX (this issue pp___). It will be clear that our two approaches differ substantially, making a direct comparison lengthy and difficult. Instead I have chosen to focus on one feature of the alternative approach, namely its emphasis on a series of modular working memories across different modalities since this offers the opportunity of discussing the role of modularity in our own approach, something that we have not covered elsewhere. This will be followed by an update on the development of the multicomponent model over recent years, leading to an overview of the current model which should allow the reader to compare and contrast our two approaches. Modularity can be defined as the degree to which a system’s components may be separated and recombined. The term has been used in areas ranging from artificial intelligence to American literature and includes neuroscience, where, over the years it has generated a good deal of controversy, with views ranging from Lashley’s (1929) conclusion that modularity did not occur within the rodent brain at least, to the views expressed by XXXX (this issue) proposing relatively extensive degree of modularity

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