The structure of word learning in young school-age children

Shelley Gray, Hope Lancaster, Mary Alt, Tiffany P. Hogan, Samuel Green, Roy Levy, Nelson Cowan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Purpose: We investigated four theoretically based latent variable models of word learning in young school-age children. Method: One hundred sixty-seven English-speaking second graders with typical development from three U.S. states participated. They completed five different tasks designed to assess children’s creation, storage, retrieval, and production of the phonological and semantic representations of novel words and their ability to link those representations. The tasks encompassed the triggering and configuration stages of word learning. Results: Results showed that a latent variable model with separate phonological and semantic factors and linking indicators constrained to load on the phonological factor best fit the data. Discussion: The structure of word learning during triggering and configuration reflects separate but related phonological and semantic factors. We did not find evidence for a unidimensional latent variable model of word learning or for separate receptive and expressive word learning factors. In future studies, it will be interesting to determine whether the structure of word learning differs during the engagement stage of word learning when phonological and semantic representations, as well as the links between them, are sufficiently strong to affect other words in the lexicon.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1446-1466
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2020
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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