Neighborhood Density and Word Frequency Predict Vocabulary Size in Toddlers PurposeTo document the lexical characteristics of neighborhood density (ND) and word frequency (WF) in the lexicons of a large sample of English-speaking toddlers.MethodParents of 222 British-English–speaking children aged 27(±3) months completed a British adaptation of the MacArthur–Bates Communicative Development Inventory: Words and Sentences (MCDI; Klee & Harrison, 2001). Child words ... Article
Article  |   June 01, 2010
Neighborhood Density and Word Frequency Predict Vocabulary Size in Toddlers
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Stephanie F. Stokes
    Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Australia
  • Contact author: Stephanie F. Stokes, who is now with the Department of Communication Disorders, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch 8140, New Zealand. E-mail: stephanie.stokes@canterbury.ac.nz.
Article Information
Development / Special Populations / Research Issues, Methods & Evidence-Based Practice / Language Disorders / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Language
Article   |   June 01, 2010
Neighborhood Density and Word Frequency Predict Vocabulary Size in Toddlers
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, June 2010, Vol. 53, 670-683. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2009/08-0254)
History: Received December 10, 2008 , Revised May 10, 2009 , Accepted August 2, 2009
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, June 2010, Vol. 53, 670-683. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2009/08-0254)
History: Received December 10, 2008; Revised May 10, 2009; Accepted August 2, 2009
Web of Science® Times Cited: 26

PurposeTo document the lexical characteristics of neighborhood density (ND) and word frequency (WF) in the lexicons of a large sample of English-speaking toddlers.

MethodParents of 222 British-English–speaking children aged 27(±3) months completed a British adaptation of the MacArthur–Bates Communicative Development Inventory: Words and Sentences (MCDI; Klee & Harrison, 2001). Child words were coded for ND and WF, and the relationships among vocabulary, ND, and WF were examined. A cut-point of −1 SD below the mean on the MCDI classified children into one of two groups: low or high vocabulary size. Group differences on ND and WF were examined using nonparametric statistics.

ResultsIn a hierarchical regression, ND and WF accounted for 47% and 14% of unique variance in MCDI scores, respectively. Low-vocabulary children scored significantly higher on ND and significantly lower on WF than did high-vocabulary children, but there was more variability in ND and WF for children at the lowest points of the vocabulary continuum.

ConclusionChildren at the lowest points of a continuum of vocabulary size may be extracting statistical properties of the input language in a manner quite different from their more able age peers.

Acknowledgments
This project was funded by ESRC RES-000-22-0712. I thank Carmel Houston-Price and Graham Schafer for access to the Reading University research database; Jill Hearing and Sarah Fincham-Majumdar for excellent work as research assistants; and Northumbria University for their generous support of the project.
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