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Exemplar variability and word learning by children with SLI (Aguilar et al., 2017)

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Version 2 2017-11-13, 19:26
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journal contribution
posted on 2017-11-13, 19:26 authored by Jessica M. Aguilar, Elena Plante, Michelle Sandoval
Purpose: Variability in the input plays an important role in language learning. The current study examined the role of object variability for new word learning by preschoolers with specific language impairment (SLI).
Method: Eighteen 4- and 5-year-old children with SLI were taught 8 new words in 3 short activities over the course of 3 sessions. Half of the children saw 3 identical objects corresponding to each new word during training (No Variability group); the other half of the children saw 3 different objects corresponding to each new word during training (High Variability group). Children completed vocabulary learning tests for objects seen during training and for new within-category objects that were never seen during training as a test of category generalization. Learning was assessed the day after each training activity, and retention was assessed 3 weeks after the last training session.
Results: There were no group differences on trained or generalization items immediately following training sessions. However, children in the High Variability group demonstrated significantly better retention 3 weeks after experimental training.
Conclusion: These findings demonstrate that object variability facilitates retention of new word learning by children with SLI.

Supplemental Material S1. Individual data for generalization of object names to untrained within-category objects.

Aguilar, J. M., Plante, E., & Sandoval, M. (2017). Exemplar variability facilitates retention of word learning by children with specific language impairment. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 49, 72–84.


This work was funded by National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders Grant 1R21DC014203 awarded to the University of Arizona (Elena Plante, principle investigator).