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The influence of phonological neighborhood density on word production and recognition in 4-to-6-year-old children

The main goal of the project is to determine how words are stored in the children’s mind and how words are extracted from the memory during production and recognition. Particularly, we interested in how phonological neighborhood density influences word production and recognition in 4-to-6-year-old typically developing Russian children.

 

From the studies with English-speaking adults, it is known that words with dense neighborhood with many phonological neighbors (e.g., bochka – dochka, kochka, mochka, nochka, pochka, tochka, yubochka) are produced faster and are recognized slower than words with sparse neighborhood. By contrast, words with sparse neighborhood with few or with no neighbors (e.g., banan – baran) are produced slower and are recognized faster than words with dense neighborhood. However, studies with Spanish-speaking adults demonstrated the opposite effect, namely, words with dense neighborhood are produced slower than words with sparse neighborhood whereas a dense neighborhood facilitates word recognition. This cross-linguistic difference was explained in terms of Spanish morphological complexity.

 

We conducted two experiments (in word production and recognition respectively) in order to understand how phonological neighborhood density influences word production and recognition in Russian 4-to-6-year-old children in comparison to Russian adults. In a word production experiment, we used a classical picture-naming task in which a reaction time (RT) was recorded (Figure 1). In a word recognition experiment, we used a visual word paradigm with eye movements recording in which the first saccade to the target picture that started after stimulus word onset was recorded (Figure 2).

 Figure 1. Examples of stimulus pictures in a word production experiment



Figure 2. Example of stimulus screen in a word recognition experiment


The results of our study showed that in 4-to-6-year-old Russian children the phonological neighborhood density influences both word production and recognition. As in Spanish adults, in Russian children and adults dense neighborhood inhibits production but facilitates recognition whereas sparse neighborhood facilitates production but inhibits recognition. Thus, the results of the present study make a significant contribution to the theory that morphological complexity of a language influences both lexical organization in the mental lexicon and word production / recognition.

   

We thank all children and adults who participated in this study.

All materials are available online: https://osf.io/yau59/


Publications

Arutiunian V., Lopukhina A. Phonological neighbourhood density in Russian word production: Evidence from children and adults  / Working papers by the Basic Research Program. Series WP BRP 64/LNG/2018 "Linguistics / LNG". 2018.

 

Conferences

Arutiunian V., Lopukhina A. Poster “Phonological neighbourhood density effect in word production in Russian children: A naming-task study” on the 3rd Summer School: Infant Studies on Language Development in Europe, Potsdam, Germany, 11-15 June 2018.


Arutiunian V., Lopukhina A. Poster “The influence of phonological neighbourhood density on spoken-word comprehension in Russian children: Evidence from eye-tracking” on the Asia-Pacific BabyLab Constellation Conference, Singapor, 4-5 October 2018.

 

Vardan Arutiunian, member of the Center for Language and Brain HSE, had a talk on the Russian TV Culture channel  about study (11 min 20 sec).

 



 

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