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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Communication Disorders

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Jill Hoover, Ph.D

Second Advisor

Gwyneth Rost, Ph.D

Third Advisor

Tom Roeper, Ph.D

Subject Categories

Communication Sciences and Disorders | Speech Pathology and Audiology


In typical language acquisition, word learning is an induction problem. When word learners hear an unfamiliar word, they make assumptions about the possible referent and its meaning. For nouns, this is relatively easy as word learners can rely on perceptual and pragmatic cues. For verbs, these two cues are fleeting, and word learners require additional kinds of cues for their meaning to be acquired. Two cues that affect verb learning include linguistic context and contrastive information. The current study used a within group comparison to examine the effect of linguistic context (i.e., rich vs. sparse) and contrastive information (i.e., implicit vs. explicit) on the fast mapping of novel verbs. Our study examined whether these two cues could facilitate verb learning in 20 children aged 3;0-5;11 and in 30 young adults. For child word learners, there was an interaction between age and contrastive information such that older, but not younger, preschool children’s learning was facilitated by an implicit cue. With an implicit cue, older preschool children fast mapped more novel verbs in rich than sparse linguistic contexts. On the other hand, adult learners were more successful in using linguistic context to fast map verbs such that they inferred the meaning of novel verbs more often in rich than sparse linguistic contexts. The results of the present study provide insights on the verb-learning differences between child learners and adult learners, as well as differences between younger and older preschoolers. These findings have implications for theories of word learning and provide information that may allow researchers to explore the effects of input, visual attention, and working memory on future verb learning studies in preschool-aged children.


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.