Does frequency count? Parental input and the acquisition of vocabulary

Judith C. Goodman, Philip S. Dale, Ping Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

160 Scopus citations

Abstract

Studies examining factors that influence when words are learned typically investigate one lexical category or a small set of words. We provide the first evaluation of the relation between input frequency and age of acquisition for a large sample of words. The MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventory provides norming data on age of acquisition for 562 individual words collected from the parents of children aged 0 ;8 to 2 ;6. The CHILDES database provides estimates of frequency with which parents use these words with their children (age: 0 ;7-7 ; 5; mean age: 36 months). For production, across all words higher parental frequency is associated with later acquisition. Within lexical categories, however, higher frequency is related to earlier acquisition. For comprehension, parental frequency correlates significantly with the age of acquisition only for common nouns. Frequency effects change with development. Thus, frequency impacts vocabulary acquisition in a complex interaction with category, modality and developmental stage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)515-531
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of child language
Volume35
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Psychology(all)

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