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Novel word requests with picture symbols across language skill proficiencies of young children

Shari L DeVeney, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Some evidence suggests the ability to rapidly learn new words may be a weakness for late talkers and could potentially be predictive of later language outcomes. Although a limited capacity for rapidly learning words may predict future outcomes for late talkers, few investigators have examined late talkers' word learning capabilities. No investigators have published data concerning expressive nonverbal word learning, which might provide insight into underlying deficits for this population. This study investigated rapid learning of words in late talkers and participants included nine 2-year-olds (three late talkers with expressive-only language delay, three late talkers with expressive and receptive language delay, and three typically-developing children) in a single subject research design with a baseline and follow up repeated across participants. The research project explored how novel word requests and comprehension using picture symbols were learned across the three participant groups. In addition, the word form characteristics (e.g., phonotactic probability) influence on word learning was explored. The outcomes of this study were: 1) Current dichotomous characterizations of late talkers as expressive-only and expressive and receptive language delayed did not account for patterns of learning to request or comprehend novel words. One late talker identified as expressive-only language delay demonstrated little learning and one late talker identified as expressive and receptive delayed demonstrated a skilled learning pattern. 2) In support of previous research findings, the presence of picture symbols facilitated spoken language use for all three of the late talkers with expressive-only language delay to levels commiserate with typically developing peers. 3) Typically-developing children showed a learning advantage for novel words with high phonotactic probability in nonverbal requesting and spontaneous verbal productions, but the late talking participants did not. This result supports the theory that late talkers may have different underlying language competence from typically developing children.

Subject Area

Speech therapy|Early childhood education

Recommended Citation

DeVeney, Shari L, "Novel word requests with picture symbols across language skill proficiencies of young children" (2012). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3522075.