An examination of children’s word learning as a function of frequency of presentation, phonological neighborhood density, vocabulary, and nonword repetition

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Hebert, Megan
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The present study examined variables important in the development and organization of longterm phonological representations in order to better understand how these impact children’s word learning. Children 4 through 7 years of age listened to stories which contained target nonwords, and then completed tasks to test for word learning. The nonwords were from dense or sparse lexical neighborhoods and were presented two or four times in the story. Children also completed a receptive vocabulary test and a nonword repetition task. For the first word learning task, there was a significant effect of frequency and the neighborhood density by frequency interaction approached conventional levels of statistical significance (p = .055). Children learned words from dense neighborhoods better only for the lower frequency condition. The current study also examined the contributions of children’s vocabulary knowledge and nonword repetition to learning for words from each of dense and sparse neighborhoods. Findings support the proposal that lexical representations from existing vocabulary knowledge make an important contribution to word learning for items from both sparse and dense neighborhoods.
Language acquisition , Language arts (primary) , Verbal ability in children