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Developmental changes in the early child lexicon in Mandarin Chinese*

  • MEILING HAO (a1), YOUYI LIU (a2) (a3), HUA SHU (a2) (a3), AILING XING (a2) (a3), YING JIANG (a4) and PING LI (a5)...


In this paper we report a large-scale developmental study of early productive vocabulary acquisition by 928 Chinese-speaking children aged between 1;0 and 2;6, using the Early Vocabulary Inventory for Mandarin Chinese (Hao, Shu, Xing & Li, 2008). The results show that: (i) social words, especially words for people, are the predominant type of words in Chinese-speaking children's earliest productive vocabulary; (ii) overall, Chinese-speaking children's vocabulary contains greater proportions of nouns than other word categories, especially at the earliest vocabulary stage; and (iii) verbs tend to appear earlier for Chinese-speaking children as compared with English-speaking children at the same levels of vocabulary development. In addition, our study has identified the underlying variables that influence the age of acquisition of words, specifically, the interplay between the conceptual (imageability) and linguistic properties (word frequency, word length, and grammatical category) that jointly shape the development of Mandarin-speaking children's early vocabulary.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Hua Shu, State Key Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China. e-mail:
Address for correspondence: Ping Li, Department of Psychology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA. e-mail:


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The research was supported by grants from the Natural Science Foundation of China (31271082, 30900392, 61373065), Major Project of National Social Science Foundation (11&ZD186), Key Project of Philosophy and Social Sciences Research, Ministry of Education (11JZD041) to HS and YL, from the National Science Foundation (BCS-1252475) to PL, from the Project of Beijing municipal philosophy and social science planning (13JYB014) to MH, from the Fund for Foreign Scholars in University Research and Teaching Programs (B07008) and the Fund for Humanities and Social Sciences Researcher Center under the Ministry of Education (08JJD740063) to PL and HS.



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