Semantic dementia patients make numerous phoneme migration errors in their immediate serial recall of poorly comprehended words. In this study, similar errors were induced in the word recall of healthy participants by presenting unpredictable mixed lists of words and nonwords. This technique revealed that lexicality, word frequency, imageability, and the ratio of words to nonwords all influence the stability of the phonological trace. These factors affected phoneme migrations and phoneme identity errors for both the words themselves and the nonwords they were presented with. Therefore, lexical/semantic knowledge encourages the phonological segments of familiar words to emerge together in immediate serial recall. In the absence of such knowledge, the elements of a particular item are more likely to recombine with the phonemes of other list items. These findings demonstrate the importance of lexical and semantic binding in verbal short-term memory. © 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.