Storkel, H.L. (2003). Learning new words II: Phonotactic probability in verb learning.Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 46, 1312-1323.


Phonotactic probability, a measure of the likelihood of occurrence of a sound sequence, appears to facilitate noun-learning. (Storkel, 2001). Nouns and verbs, however, tend to differ in rate of acquisition, indicating that word-learning mechanisms may differ across grammatical class. The purpose of the current study was to examine the effect of phonotactic probability on verb-learning. Thirty-four typically developing preschool children participated in a multi-trial word-learning task involving nonwords varying in phonotactic probability paired with unfamiliar actions. Multiple measures of word-learning were obtained at increasing numbers of exposures. Correct responses were analyzed to examine rate of word-learning. Results paralleled those of the previous noun-learning study, with common sound sequences being learned more rapidly than rare sound sequences. The results are interpreted in relation to the effect of distributional regularities on acquisition and the reported discrepancy between noun- and verb-learning in English.

Key Words: normal language development, phonology, vocabulary expansion, preschool children.

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