Word Meaning Types Acquired Before vs. After Age 5 by Andrew Biemiller

This article concerns two types of word meanings: nonverbal meanings which appear to be associated with neurological representations and verbally-based meanings which appear to depend in part on other words to construct meanings. Using word use data from Hart and Risley’s study of children aged 19 to 36 months, and word meaning knowledge data from Biemiller and Slonim’s studies of children between aged 5 to 11, meanings were classified as nonverbal or verbally-based. Biemiller and Slonim used sampled word meanings reported known from grade levels 2 to 12 reported by Dale and O’Rourke in their Living Word Vocabulary. Virtually all meanings used at age 3 or known at age 5 (preschool) were classified nonverbal. By grade two, and even more by grade five, children had added many verbally-defined meanings, although by grade five the majority of the word meanings known were still nonverbal. 

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Originally published:

Biemiller A (2024) Word meaning types
acquired before vs. after age 5: implications
for education. Frontiers in Psychology. 15:1280568.

doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2024.1280568


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