A lexical advantage in four-year-old children's word repetition

Margaret Cychosz, Michelle Erskine, Benjamin Munson, Jan Edwards

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


This study examined a potential lexicality advantage in young children's early speech production: do children produce sound sequences less accurately in nonwords than real words? Children aged 3;3-4;4 completed two tasks: a real word repetition task and a corresponding nonword repetition task. Each of the 23 real words had a paired consonant-vowel sequence in the nonword in word-initial position (e.g., 'su' in [Esutkes] 'suitcase' and [Esudr's]). The word-initial consonant-vowel sequences were kept constant between the paired words. Previous work on this topic compared different sequences of paired sounds, making it hard to determine if those results were due to a lexical or phonetic effect. Our results show that children reliably produced consonant-vowel sequences in real words more accurately than nonwords. The effect was most pronounced in children with smaller receptive vocabularies. Together, these results reinforce theories arguing for interactions between vocabulary size and phonology in language development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-54
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of child language
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
especially Rebecca Higgins and Michele Liquori. Additional thanks to Sharon Inkelas and two anonymous reviewers for extremely constructive comments. This work benefitted from feedback from audiences at Macquarie University, UC Berkeley, and BUCLD 43. Research was supported by NIDCD Grant No. R01 02932 to J.R.E., B.M., and Mary E. Beckman, a UC Berkeley Dissertation Completion Fellowship to M.C., and the Raymond H. Stetson Scholarship in Phonetics and Speech Science to M.C.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2020.


  • nonword repetition
  • phonology
  • vocabulary size


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