The Effect of Semantic Set Size on Word Learning by Preschool Children Purpose The purpose was to determine whether semantic set size, a measure of the number of semantic neighbors, influenced word learning, and whether the influence of semantic set size was broad, showing effects on multiple measures both during and after learning. Method Thirty-six preschool children were exposed to ... Research Article
Research Article  |   April 01, 2009
The Effect of Semantic Set Size on Word Learning by Preschool Children
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Holly L. Storkel
    University of Kansas, Lawrence
  • Suzanne M. Adlof
    University of Kansas, Lawrence
  • Contact author: Holly Storkel, Department of Speech-Language-Hearing: Sciences and Disorders, University of Kansas, 3001 Dole Human Development Center, 1000 Sunnyside Avenue, Lawrence, KS 66045-7555. E-mail: hstorkel@ku.edu.
Article Information
Development / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   April 01, 2009
The Effect of Semantic Set Size on Word Learning by Preschool Children
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, April 2009, Vol. 52, 306-320. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2009/07-0175)
History: Received July 26, 2007 , Revised March 10, 2008 , Accepted August 7, 2008
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, April 2009, Vol. 52, 306-320. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2009/07-0175)
History: Received July 26, 2007; Revised March 10, 2008; Accepted August 7, 2008
Web of Science® Times Cited: 17

Purpose The purpose was to determine whether semantic set size, a measure of the number of semantic neighbors, influenced word learning, and whether the influence of semantic set size was broad, showing effects on multiple measures both during and after learning.

Method Thirty-six preschool children were exposed to 10 nonobjects, varying in semantic set size, paired with 10 nonwords, controlling phonotactic probability and neighborhood density. Nonobject–nonword pairs were presented in a game format. Learning was measured in naming and referent identification tasks administered before, during, and 1 week after training.

Results Results showed no differences in naming or identifying the referents of the nonobject–nonword pairs with small versus large semantic set sizes before and during training. However, 1 week after training, children named and identified the referents of nonobject–nonword pairs with small set sizes more accurately than those with large set sizes.

Conclusions Similarity to known representations appears to influence word learning, regardless of whether the similarity involves lexical or semantic representations. However, the direction of the effect of similarity to known representations on word learning varies depending on the specific type of representation involved. Specifically, lexical similarity speeds learning, whereas semantic similarity slows learning.

Acknowledgments
This research was supported by National Institutes of Health Grants DC 08095, DC 00052, DC 05803, and HD02528. The following individuals contributed to stimulus creation, data collection, data processing, and reliability calculations: Andrew Aschenbrenner, Teresa Brown, Deborah Christenson, Andrea Giles, Nicole Hayes, Jennica Kilwein, Jill Hoover, Su-Yeon Lee, Junko Maekawa, Shannon Rogers, Josie Row, Allison Wade, and Courtney Winn.
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