posted on 2013-04-01, 00:00authored byHolly L. Storkel, Junko Maekawa, Andrew J. Aschenbrenner
Purpose The goal of the current study was to examine the effect of homonymy (learning a second meaning for a known word form vs. learning a novel meaning and novel word form) and articulation accuracy (IN vs. OUT sounds) on word learning by preschool children. An added goal was to determine whether word frequency altered the effect of homonymy on word learning.
Method Twenty-nine 3- to 4-year-old children were taught homonyms and novel words. Stimuli further varied in whether homonymy was present in both the adult input and the child's output (as for IN sounds) versus present only in the child's output (as for OUT sounds).
Results For IN sounds, children learned homonyms more rapidly than novel words. Moreover, the homonym advantage was modulated by word frequency, such that children learned a new meaning for a high-frequency word more accurately than they learned a new meaning for a low-frequency word. In contrast, for OUT sounds, there was no evidence that homonymy influenced learning.
Conclusions Homonymy in the adult input facilitates word learning by preschool children, whereas homonymy in the child's output alone does not. This effect is captured in a usage-based model of phonology and the lexicon.
The project described was supported by National Institutes of Health (NIH) Grants DC 08095, DC 05803, and HD 02528. The contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH. We would like to thank Daniel Bontempo, co-director of the Analytic Techniques and Technology (ATT) Core of the Center for Biobehavioral Neurosciences of Communication Disorders (BNCD, DC05803); for assistance with the statistical analysis; staff of the Participant Recruitment and Management Core (PARC) of the BNCD (DC05803) for assistance with recruitment of preschools and children; staff of the Word and Sound Learning Lab (supported by DC 08095) for their contributions to stimulus creation, data collection, data processing, and reliability calculations; and the preschools, parents, and children who participated. Portions of this project were presented at the 2012 International Conference on Child Phonology, Minneapolis, MN. We thank attendees of that conference for their helpful remarks, which guided the framing and presentation of this article.