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Rare vocabulary use by preschoolers (Kelley & Poholik, 2023)

posted on 2023-06-22, 22:32 authored by Elizabeth Spencer Kelley, Olivia Poholik

Purpose: This study presents a preliminary examination of rare vocabulary use by preschool children using a recently developed tool called the Wordlist for Expressive Rare Vocabulary Evaluation (WERVE).

Method: The WERVE was used to identify rare vocabulary words language samples of 74 preschool children (Mage = 56 months). We examined the relations among rare vocabulary use, performance on norm-referenced measures of single-word vocabulary, and language sample measures of language complexity and lexical diversity.

Results: Rare vocabulary use was significantly, positively correlated with standard scores on norm-referenced vocabulary measures and with language complexity and lexical diversity in language samples. Children with higher vocabulary scores used significantly more rare vocabulary than children with lower vocabulary scores.

Conclusions: The WERVE shows some promise for providing information about the rare vocabulary use of preschool children. Findings from this preliminary study indicate that further research on rare vocabulary use is warranted.

Supplemental Material S1. Descriptives by study.

Supplemental Material S2. Sample sentences with rare vocabulary words.

Kelley, E. S., & Poholik, O. (2023). Big words for little kids: Rare vocabulary use by preschool children. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 32(4), 1705–1713.


The data for this project were derived from previous studies funded by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation and the MU Research Catalyst Fund, awarded to Elizabeth Kelley, PI, and the United States Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, R432A150132, awarded to the University of South Florida, Howard Goldstein and Elizabeth Kelley, PIs.