Development of word recognition in preschoolers
Vocabulary size in preschool is a robust predictor of later language development, and early language skills predict early literacy skills at school entry. By studying the mechanisms that shape word learning, we can understand how individual differences in language ability arise. Word recognition—the process of mapping incoming speech sounds to known or novel words—has been shown in toddlers to predict later language outcomes. We do not know how this ability develops over time. This dissertation reports the results for two word recognition experiments administered during each year of a 3-year longitudinal study with 160 preschoolers. Children were 2.5–3-years-old in year 1 and 4.5–5-years-old in year 3.
In the first experiment, four images of familiar nouns were presented onscreen followed by a prompt to view one of the images (e.g., find the bell!). Images included the target word (e.g., bell), a semantically related word (drum), a phonologically similar word (bee), and an unrelated word (swing). Early differences in word recognition were longitudinally stable so that children who were faster and more accurate at age 3 were relatively fast and accurate at age 5. Moreover, word recognition efficiency at age 3 was a stronger predictor of age-5 vocabulary size than concurrent (age-5) word recognition efficiency. Word recognition behavior thus provided an important early predictor of vocabulary growth. Analysis of children’s looks to the competitors showed that children become more sensitive to the phonological and semantic competitors, compared to the unrelated word, as they grew older. Children become better at recognizing familiar words by developing connections among words.
The second experiment used a mispronunciation study in which a child saw a familiar object and an unfamiliar object and heard a real word (e.g., shoes), a one-feature mispronunciation (suze), or a nonword (geeve). Contrary to pre-analysis hypotheses, children recognized real words and fast-selected novel-object referents for nonwords equally well and even performed better in the nonword condition. Children became more likely to associate the familiar object with the mispronunciations as they grew older. At age 5, children showed better retention for novel objects labeled with nonwords than with mispronunciations.
This book, when finished, will contain my dissertation research.
- Last compiled: 2018-09-04 10:16:25