Adjective Definitions and the Influence of Word Frequency The present investigation is a study of the development of adjective definitions given by participants in Grades 6 and 10 and by young adults, as well as the influence of word frequency on those definitions. A total of 150 participants (50 per age group) wrote definitions for 6 high-frequency and ... Research Article
Research Article  |   October 01, 2003
Adjective Definitions and the Influence of Word Frequency
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Sally A. Marinellie
    Ohio University, Athens
  • Cynthia J. Johnson
    University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Contact author: Sally A. Marinellie, PhD, School of Hearing, Speech and Language Sciences, Ohio University, W233 Grover Center, Athens, OH 45701. E-mail: marinels@ohio.edu
Article Information
School-Based Settings / Research Issues, Methods & Evidence-Based Practice / Normal Language Processing / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   October 01, 2003
Adjective Definitions and the Influence of Word Frequency
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, October 2003, Vol. 46, 1061-1076. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2003/084)
History: Received October 21, 2002 , Accepted March 11, 2003
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, October 2003, Vol. 46, 1061-1076. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2003/084)
History: Received October 21, 2002; Accepted March 11, 2003

The present investigation is a study of the development of adjective definitions given by participants in Grades 6 and 10 and by young adults, as well as the influence of word frequency on those definitions. A total of 150 participants (50 per age group) wrote definitions for 6 high-frequency and 6 low-frequency adjectives. Adjective definitions were analyzed for use of semantic content and also grammatical form. Findings indicated that content of adjective definitions generally followed a developmental course from concrete and functional to more abstract. Response patterns of certain categories, such as superordinate, have implications for organization of the mental lexicon and suggest that adjective definitions may be less predictable than definitions of other grammatical categories, such as noun. Although conventional syntactic form was highly used in definitions (i.e., adjectival form for a definition of an adjective), verb form was also highly used. Conventional form may be less useful to characterize adjective definitions than other grammatical classes. Findings suggest that word frequency has a robust influence on adjective definitions and that development progresses differently for high- and low-frequency words.

Acknowledgments
This research was completed in partial fulfillment of PhD requirements and was supported in part by the U.S. Department of Education Grant H029D60035. The opinions expressed herein, however, do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the US Department of Education. We thank the administrators, teachers, and students in the Champaign, IL and Urbana, IL Public Schools for their support and cooperation. We acknowledge Janis Chadsey, James Halle, Adele Proctor and Ruth Watkins for their valuable comments and suggestions. We also thank Bonnie Johnson, Bridget Smyth, Bonnie Browne, and Andrea Owens for their great assistance in data analysis and coding reliability.
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