It has been proposed that a frontally distributed ERP negativity reflects rehearsal within the phonological loop component of working memory. This study investigated the relationship between phonological rehearsal and frontal negativity, by examining the effects of word length and articulatory suppression (continuously uttering an irrelevant word) on memory for auditorily presented words while ERPs were recorded. P2 amplitude, thought to reflect word identification, was increased for long compared to short words. However, this difference did not remain under conditions of suppression. A centrally maximum early negativity was larger in the short than long word silent conditions and this word length effect was reduced under suppression. The early negativity was interpreted as reflecting the transfer of the information from input to output buffers in the silent conditions that was prevented by the suppression. There was only a word length effect for the late frontally distributed negativity in the suppression conditions, suggesting that this component was not associated with phonological loop rehearsal but rather other working memory processes that operate under high load conditions. (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.