Phonological Loop (A Comprehensive Guide)

Phonology is referred to as examining the sounds’ pattern in a language and in other languages.

Phonology is also referred to as organizing the speech sounds of languages categorically.

Such as, how to organize the speech sounds in the head and how to utilize them to bring understating.

In this article we will discuss phonological loop. 

Many disciplines of linguistics can be correlated with phonology , including psycholinguistics, cognitive science, sociolinguistics and language acquisition.

The fundamentals of phonology can be useful in implementing to treat the patients with speech disability and to bring more innovation in technology.

Speech recognition is a structure on which new structures can be developed for translation purposes such as translating the spoken words into text form.

The computer also processes the language in a similar way to our brain.

The process in machines occurs very similar to the process which occurs in human brains.

The popular artificial intelligence systems which are used nowadays in mobile phones, such as Alexa and Siri are examples of machines decoding language. 

Phonological Loop

The phonetic loop and articulatory loop are also the names of phonological loop. The phonological loop resides inside the working memory in which information related to or in form of words is rehearsed.

There are two portions of the phonological loop. Phonological store with a little period of time having auditory memory traces which are susceptible to get decomposed rapidly.

The articulatory rehearsal part which is able to resuscitate the memory traces.

The earlier part of the phonological loop is a phonological memory store that is capable of holding the signs relating to the sounds or hearing sense.

During this shorter period material remains for only two seconds until is prolonged by using the second part which is articulatory subvocal rehearsal.

If the articulatory rehearsal is not performed it can result in rapidly forgetting these things. The process is also referred to as decaying. 

When a tune or a sound us caught by the phonological loop goes over and over constantly in a loop in order to avoid decaying.

This removes the obscurity about why someone cannot get rid of a particular song he heard.

The favorable practice to reduce this repetition of sound in your head is to find a distraction away from the song.

It would enable the naturally occurring process of decaying to get into the motion fastly, resultantly put the rehearsal process to an end. 

The information in the form of sounds is supposedly involved in phonological storage automatically.

The information in the form of a visual representation can be remodeled in phonological codes by silent articulation and thus it is converted into a coded form in phonological storage.

The articulatory control process plays the role of a facilitator in transforming this.

The purpose of the phonological storage is to act as an inner ear, memorising the verbal information in an arrangement of events as they happened.

The purpose of the articulatory process is to act as an inner voice and to repeat the words in succession on a loop in order to avoid decay.

In the early stages of life the phonological loop can be a vital element in acquiring a good range of vocabulary.

The phonological loop can also be helpful in order to learn another language.

Following are findings which give proof about the phonological loop:

The effect of phonological similarity

Those words are harder to memorise who have a similar sound as compared to the words which have a different sound.

There is a little effect of how similar their meanings may be, supporting this supposition that the information provided in the form of sounds is encoded mostly in working memory phonologically. 

The effects of articulatory suppression

When some is asked to tell which thing distinctly which is not relevant this can impair the memory for verbal material.

It is assumed to stop the process of articulatory rehearsal, thus abandoning the leftovers of the memory into a phonological loop to be decomposed. 

Transfer of information between codes:

The people commonly named rehearse those items which are presented visually in order to transfer the information from a pictorial representation to an auditory code.

The purpose of articulatory suppression is to prevent this shift from visual to auditory code and for such cases the effect of phonological resemblance is therefore removed for the items which were presented visually.

Neuropsychological evidence:

A phonological store which is malfunctioning narrates how patients behave with a particular defect in phonological short term memory.

The patients with aphasia, disease and a neurological disorder which affects the ability of an individual to process and plan motor tasks, cannot setup the speech motor codes which are essential in articulation and are seeded by the lack of process of articulatory rehearsal. 

 While, contrary to this, those people who have dysarthria and their problem of speech is secondary tend to demonstrate a normal capability of rehearsing.

It is obvious that subvocal rehearsing is crucial.

The Digit Span Test

This test is commonly used to measure the capacity of working memory. A person needs to memorise the strings of digits.

The number of digits one can easily memorize varies from language to language and depends on which language a person is doing the task.

Because there are numbers in some languages which are shorter or longer than other numbers.

Take an example of English language in which one can remember a 6 digits but in other languages like Hebrew and Italian it is much less.

In Mandarin it is easy to remember more digits in just two seconds in memory capacity as it has the finest digit span and one can say more than one digit in a syllable.

An individual who is good in digit span is good at doing maths in mind as he is able to hold information in his memory for long. 

The Phonological loop and Music

Perception and memory of music overlaps with verbal functioning of phonological loop.

Both the verbal memory and the tonal working memory involve the same basic paradigm of the brain. Thus the beginner level of musicians utilise their working memory to learn and memorize the music.

Nevertheless, with the passage of time the musician attains the expertise he is able to develop different other methods for retaining the music in their memory which is non auditory and utilise different parts of the brain. 

Phonological loop and behavior

The phonological loop may also control the behaviour. 

When a person says something like ‘blah blah blah’ the phonological loop gets blocked because the person is not good at shifting the focus among tasks. 

This may be used as a shortcut. A person says something aloud in order to perform another task because phonological loops are easy to load, retrieve and keep on running.

Mostly kids use this by saying something loudly and then in their heads. 

This is used to control the behaviour and tells the person what is the next thing to do.

When a person gets lost and looking for direction he will repeat in his head, turn right at highway 3.

Purpose of phonological loop

The aim of having a phonological loop is primarily to assist people in learning the language and expanding their vocabulary.

The phonological loop will keep the traces of fresh and unknown words as these words are added in the long term internal vocabulary.

This is an important function because learning a lot of vocabulary at a younger age is an important measure of the intellect of a child and his progress in education.

The phonological loop does not aim to assist us in remembering the words already known to us but this is merely an adverse effect. 

Gathercole and Baddeley’s Study

Baddeley and Gathercole aimed at measuring if a five years old child is better at learning fresh words or if he is good enough at learning non-words by repeating them. 

Baddeley and Gathercole named four toys and experimented on the memory of children about the names of the toys to answer this question.

These toys were named after known words Such a Mark and David or phonologically unknown names, for example, Geoffrey and Meeton.

These children were examined about retaining the names for a longer term. The results of this experiment showed that to learn fresh words is directly associated with phonological rehearsal capability of the kids.

It was revealed that kids who had problems with phonological memory were not good at learning fresh words. It indicated that those who have a good phonological memory can learn new words easily.

It should not be assumed that those kids who have a deficiency with working memory do not have a larger vocabulary when they grow old.

As they grow up with many other determinants, for example, their capability of executive processes, exposure to various vocabularies will be influencing how they acquire the vocabulary.

Finally, it is evident that those tests which are based on working memory are helpful in identifying the kids who have learning difficulties or ADHD. 


Biedroń & Szczepaniak were curious to know about whether a stronger working memory is capable of predicting someone’s abilities of learning new languages.

In order to find the answer to their quest, they made a comparison among the working memory abilities of proficient bilinguals and multilinguals.

Firstly, the IQ of STM, WM and foreign language aptitudes of those with good multilingual skills were measured.

Further, using this test, the 36 mainstream English philology students and 28 proficient multilinguals were compared.

The results revealed that those who were proficient in multiple languages were having greater memory abilities in regard to the phonological loop and the central executive component.

This showed that having a high IQ, having a stronger working memory and being proficient in multiple languages are correlated with each other. 

FAQs about Phonological Loop 

Q1. What is phonology? 

Phonology refers to studying the patterns of sounds and their meaning. 

Q2. What are the types of phonology?

There are three types of phonology which are given below;

Production (Articulatory) 

Transmission (Acoustic) 

Perception (Auditive) 

Q3 . What are the examples of machines decoding languages? 

Siri and Alexa are modern artificial intelligence systems which are the best examples of machines decoding language

Q4. What is a phonological loop?

The phonological loop resides inside the working memory in which information related to or in form of words is rehearsed.

Q5. What is the purpose of a phonological loop? 

A phonological loop is part of our working memory which serves the purpose of holding verbal and auditory information. 

Q6. What is the key function of a phonological loop? 

Phonological loop does not let the decay happen. 

Q7. For how long short term memory resides in mind?

Short memories can stay in mind for maximum 20 seconds until or unless it is rehearsed.