Onset Neighborhood Density Slows Lexical Access in High Vocabulary 30‐Month Olds

Cognitive Science 45 (9):e13022 (2021)
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Abstract

There is consensus that the adult lexicon exhibits lexical competition. In particular, substantial evidence demonstrates that words with more phonologically similar neighbors are recognized less efficiently than words with fewer neighbors. How and when these effects emerge in the child's lexicon is less clear. In the current paper, we build on previous research by testing whether phonological onset density slows lexical access in a large sample of 100 English‐acquiring 30‐month‐olds. The children participated in a visual world looking‐while‐listening task, in which their attention was directed to one of two objects on a computer screen while their eye movements were recorded. We found moderate evidence of inhibitory effects of onset neighborhood density on lexical access and clear evidence for an interaction between onset neighborhood density and vocabulary, with larger effects of onset neighborhood density for children with larger vocabularies. Results suggest the lexicons of 30‐month‐olds exhibit lexical‐level competition, with competition increasing with vocabulary size.

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