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Triggering word learning in children with Language Impairment: The effect of phonotactic probability and neighbourhood density

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Cristina McKeanORCiD, Dr Carolyn Letts, Professor David Howard



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


The effect of phonotactic probability (PP) and neighbourhood density (ND) on triggering word learning was examined in children with Language Impairment (3;04–6;09) and compared to Typically Developing children. Nonwords, varying PP and ND orthogonally, were presented in a story context and their learning tested using a referent identification task. Group comparisons with receptive vocabulary as a covariate found no group differences in overall scores or in the influence of PP or ND. Therefore, there was no evidence of atypical lexical or phonological processing. ‘Convergent’ PP/ND (High PP/High ND; Low PP/Low ND) was optimal for word learning in both groups. This bias interacted with vocabulary knowledge. ‘Divergent’ PP/ND word scores (High PP/Low ND; Low PP/High ND) were positively correlated with vocabulary so the ‘divergence disadvantage’ reduced as vocabulary knowledge grew; an interaction hypothesized to represent developmental changes in lexical–phonological processing linked to the emergence of phonological representations.

Publication metadata

Author(s): McKean C, Letts CA, Howard D

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Child Language

Year: 2014

Volume: 41

Issue: 6

Pages: 1224-1228

Print publication date: 01/11/2014

Online publication date: 06/11/2013

Acceptance date: 18/09/2013

Date deposited: 09/10/2014

ISSN (print): 0305-0009

ISSN (electronic): 1469-7602

Publisher: Cambridge University Press


DOI: 10.1017/S0305000913000445


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