Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

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)...

Abstract

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.

Copyright

Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Hua Shu, State Key Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China. e-mail: shuh@bnu.edu.cn
Address for correspondence: Ping Li, Department of Psychology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA. e-mail: pul8@psu.edu

Footnotes

Hide All
[*]

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.

Footnotes

References

Hide All
Akhtar, N., Jipson, J. & Callanan, M. A. (2001). Learning words through overhearing. Child Development 72(2), 416–30.
Au, T., Dapretto, M. & Song, Y.-K. (1994). Input vs. constraints: early word acquisition in Korean and English. Journal of Memory and Language 33, 567–82.
Barca, L., Burani, C. & Arduino, L. S. (2002). Word naming times and psycholinguistic norms for Italian nouns. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments & Computers 34, 424–34.
Bates, E., Marchman, V., Thal, D., Fenson, L., Dale, P., Reznick, J. S., Reilly, J. & Hartung, J. (1994). Developmental and stylistic variation in the composition of early vocabulary. Journal of Child Language 21, 85123.
Behrens, H. (1998). How difficult are complex verbs? Evidence from German, Dutch, and English. Linguistics 36, 679713.
Bird, H., Franklin, S. & Howard, D. (2001). Age of acquisition and imageability ratings for a large set of words, including verbs and function words. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments & Computers 33, 73–9.
Bloom, L., Tinker, E. & Margulis, C. (1993). The words children learn: evidence against a noun bias in early vocabularies. Cognitive Development 8, 431–50.
Bornstein, M. & Cote, L. R. (2004). Cross-linguistic analysis of vocabulary in young children: Spanish, Dutch, French, Hebrew, Italian, Korean, and American English. Child Development 75, 1115–39.
Bornstein, M. H., Haynes, O. M. & Painter, K. M. (1998). Sources of child vocabulary competence: a multivariate model. Journal of Child Language 25, 367–93.
Brown, P. (1998). Children's first verbs in Tzeltal: evidence for an early verb category. Linguistics 36(4), 715–53.
Brysbaert, M., Buchmeier, M., Conrad, M., Jacobs, A. M., Bölte, J. & Böhl, A. (2011). The word frequency effect: a review of recent developments and implications for the choice of frequency estimates in German. Experimental Psychology 58, 412–24.
Cai, Q. & Brysbaert, M. (2010). SUBTLEX-CH: Chinese word and character frequencies based on film subtitles. PLoS ONE 5, e10729; online <http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0010729>.
Caselli, M. C., Bates, E., Casadio, P., Fenson, J., Fenson, L., Sanderl, L. & Weir, J. (1995). A cross-linguistic study of early lexical development. Cognitive Development 10, 159–99.
Caselli, M. C., Casadio, P. & Bates, E. (1999). A comparison of the transition from first words to grammar in English and Italian. Journal of Child Language 26, 69111.
Choi, S. & Gopnik, A. (1995). Early acquisition of verbs in Korean: a cross-linguistic study. Journal of Child Language 22, 497529.
Cohen, J., Cohen, P., West, S. G. & Aiken, L. S. (2003). Applied multiple regression/correlation analysis for the behavioral sciences, 3rd ed.Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Cuetos, F., Glez-Nosti, M., Barbon, A. & Brysbaert, M. (2011). SUBTLEX-ESP: Spanish word frequencies based on film subtitles. Psicologica 32, 133–43.
Dale, P. (1991). The validity of a parent report measure of vocabulary and syntax at 24 months. Journal of Speech and Hearing Sciences 34, 565–71.
Dale, P., Bates, E., Reznick, S. & Morisset, C. (1989). The validity of a parent report instrument of child language at twenty months. Journal of Child Language 16, 239–50.
D'Odorico, L., Carubbi, S., Salerni, N. & Calvo, V. (2001). Vocabulary development in Italian children: a longitudinal evaluation of quantitative and qualitative aspects. Journal of Child Language 28, 351–72.
Fenson, L., Dale, P., Reznick, J. S., Thal, D., Bates, E., Hartung, J., Pethick, S. & Reilly, J. (1993). MacArthur Communicative Development Inventories: user's guide and technical manual. San Diego, CA: Singular.
Fernald, A. & Morikawa, H. (1993). Common themes and cultural variations in Japanese and American mothers’ speech to infants. Child Development 64, 637–56.
Gentner, D. (1982). Why nouns are learned before verbs: linguistic relativity versus natural partitioning. In Kuczaj, S. A. (ed.), Language development: Vol. 2. Language, thought and culture, 301–34. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Gentner, D. (2006). Why verbs are hard to learn. In Hirsh-Pasek, K. & Golinkoff, R. (eds), Action meets word: how children learn verbs, 544–64. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Gentner, D. & Boroditsky, L. (2001). Individuation, relativity, and early word learning. In Bowerman, M. & Levinson, S. C. (eds), Language, culture & cognition: Vol. 3. Language acquisition and conceptual development, 215–56. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Gillette, J., Gleitman, H., Gleitman, L. & Lederer, A. (1999). Human simulations of vocabulary learning. Cognition 73, 135–76.
Gleitman, L. R. & Gleitman, H. (1994). A picture is worth a thousand words, but that's the problem. In Lust, B., Suner, M. & Whitman, J. (eds), Syntactic theory and first language acquisition: cross-linguistic perspectives. Vol. 1: Heads, projections, and learnability, 291–9. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Goldfield, B. A. (1993). Noun bias in maternal speech to one year olds. Journal of Child Language 20, 8599.
Golinkoff, R. M. & Hirsh-Pasek, K. (2006). Baby wordsmith: from associationist to social sophisticate. Current Directions in Psychological Science 15, 30–3.
Golinkoff, R. M., Mervis, C. V. & Hirsh-Pasek, K. (1994). Early object labels: the case for a developmental lexical principles framework. Journal of Child Language 21, 125–55.
Goodman, J. C., Dale, P. S. & Li, P. (2008). Does frequency count? Parental input and the acquisition of vocabulary. Journal of Child Language 35, 521–59.
Gopnik, A. & Choi, S. (1995). Names, relational words, and cognitive development in English- and Korean-speakers: nouns are not always learned before verbs. In Tomasello, M. & Merriman, W. (eds), Beyond names for things: young children's acquisition of verbs, 6380. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Hao, M., Shu, H., Xing, A. & Li, P. (2008). Early vocabulary inventory for Mandarin Chinese. Behavior Research Methods 40, 728–33.
Hernandez, A. & Li, P. (2007). Age of acquisition: its neural and computational mechanisms. Psychological Bulletin 133, 638–50.
Juhasz, B. (2005). Age-of-acquisition effects in word and picture identification. Psychological Bulletin 131(5), 684712.
Kauschke, C. & Hofmeister, C. (2002). Early lexical development in German: a study on vocabulary growth and vocabulary composition during the second and third year of life. Journal of Child Language 29, 735–57.
Keuleers, E., Brysbaert, M. & New, B. (2010). SUBTLEX-NL: a new frequency measure for Dutch words based on film subtitles. Behavior Research Methods 42(3), 643–50.
Kim, M., McGregor, K. K. & Thompson, C. K. (2000). Early lexical development in English- and Korean-speaking children: language-general and language-specific patterns. Journal of Child Language 27, 225–54.
Kong, L., Hu, D., Ouyang, J., Chen, C., Ding, L., Wang, X., Zhu, W., Fu, M. & Yao, W. (2004). 汉族儿童实词习得研究 [Research on the acquisition of content words in Chinese-speaking children]. 合肥:安徽大学出版社 [Hefei: Anhui University Press].
Li, P. (1998). Crosslinguistic variation and sentence processing: the case of Chinese. In Hillert, D. (ed.), Sentence processing: a crosslinguistic perspective (Syntax and Semantics 31; pp. 3351). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
Li, P., Zhao, X. & MacWhinney, B. (2007). Dynamic self-organization and early lexical development in children. Cognitive Science 31(4), 581612.
Liu, S. X. (2007). Early lexical development in English, Mandarin, and Cantonese: a cross-linguistic study based on CHILDES. (Unpublished MA thesis) University of Richmond.
Liu, S. X., Zhao, X. W. & Li, P. (2008). Early lexical development: a corpus-based study of three languages. In Love, B. C., McRae, K. & Sloutsky, V. M. (eds), Proceedings of the 30th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, 1343–8. Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.
Liu, Y., Shu, H. & Li, P. (2007). Word naming and psycholinguistic norms: Chinese. Behavior Research Methods 39, 192–8.
Ma, W., Golinkoff, R. M., Hirsh-Pasek, K., McDonough, C. & Tardif, T. (2009). Imageability predicts the age of acquisition of verbs in Chinese children. Journal of Child Language 36, 405–23.
MacWhinney, B. (2000). The CHILDES Project: tools for analyzing talk. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Maekawa, J. & Storkel, H. L. (2006). Individual differences in the influence of phonological characteristics on expressive vocabulary development by young children. Journal of Child Language 33, 439–59.
Maguire, M. J., Hirsh-Pasek, K. & Golinkoff, R. M. (2006). A united theory of word learning: putting verb acquisition in context. In Hirsh-Pasek, K. & Golinkoff, R. M. (eds), Action meets word: how children learn verbs, 364–91. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Markman, E. M. (1987). How children constrain the possible meanings of words. In Neisser, U. (ed.), Concepts and conceptual development: ecological and intellectual factors in categorization, 255–87. New York: Cambridge University Press.
McDonough, C., Song, L., Hirsh-Pasek, K., Golinkoff, R. M. & Lannon, R. (2011). An image is worth a thousand words: why nouns tend to dominate verbs in early word learning. Developmental Science 14, 181–9.
Nelson, K. (1973). Structure and strategy in learning to talk. Monograph of the Society for Research in Child Development 38, 1135.
New, B., Brysbaert, M., Veronis, J. & Pallier, C. (2007). The use of film subtitles to estimate word frequencies. Applied Psycholinguistics 28, 661–77.
Parish-Morris, J., Pruden, S. M., Ma, W., Hirsh-Pasek, K. & Golinkoff, R. M. (2010). A world of relations: relational words. In Malt, B. C. & Wolff, P. (eds), Words and the mind: how words capture human experience, 219–42. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Pine, J. M. & Lieven, E. V. (1990). Referential style at thirteen months: why age-defined cross-sectional measures are inappropriate for the study of strategy differences in early language development. Journal of Child Language 17, 625–31.
Saji, N., Imai, M., Saalbach, H., Zhang, Y., Shu, H. & Okada, H. (2011). Word learning does not end at fast-mapping: evolution of verb meanings through reorganization of an entire semantic domain. Cognition 118(1), 4561.
Sandhofer, C., Smith, L. & Luo, J. (2000). Counting nouns and verbs in the input: Differential frequencies, different kinds of learning? Journal of Child Language 27, 561–85.
Storkel, H. L. (2004). Methods for minimizing the confounding effects of word length in the analysis of phonotactic probability and neighborhood density. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 47, 1454–68.
Tamis–LeMonda, C. S., Bornstein, M. H., Cyphers, L., Toda, S. & Ogino, M. (1992). Language and play at one year: a comparison of toddlers and mothers in the United States and Japan. International Journal of Behavioral Development 15, 1942.
Tardif, T. (1996). Nouns are not always learned before verbs: evidence from Mandarin speakers’ early vocabularies. Developmental Psychology 32, 492504.
Tardif, T. (2006). But are they really verbs? Chinese words for action. In Hirsh-Pasek, K. & Golinkoff, R. (eds), Action meets word: how children learn verbs, 477–98. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Tardif, T., Fletcher, P., Liang, W., Zhang, Z., Kaciroti, N. & Marchman, V. A. (2008). Baby's first 10 words. Developmental Psychology 44, 929–38.
Tardif, T., Gelman, S. A. & Xu, F. (1999). Putting the ‘noun bias’ in context: a comparison of English and Mandarin. Child Development 70, 620–35.
Tardif, T., Shatz, M. & Naigles, L. (1997). Caregiver speech and children's use of nouns versus verbs: a comparison of English, Italian, and Mandarin. Journal of Child Language 24, 535–65.
Tomasello, M. (1995). Pragmatic contexts for early verb learning. In Tomasello, M. & Merriman, W. E. (eds), Beyond the name for things: young children's acquisition of verbs, 115–46. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Tse, S. K., Chan, C. & Li, H. (2005). Is the expressive vocabulary of young Cantonese speakers noun or verb dominated? Early Child Development and Care 175, 215–27.
Tulving, E. & Thomson, D. M. (1973). Encoding specificity and retrieval processes in episodic memory. Psychological Review 80, 352–73.
Waterson, N. (1971). Child phonology: a prosodic view. Journal of Linguistics 7, 179211.
Waterson, N. (1978). Growth of complexity in phonological development. In Waterson, N. & Snow, C. (eds), The development of communication, 415–42. New York: Wiley.
Waxman, S. R. & Booth, A. E. (2003). The origins and evolution of links between word learning and conceptual organization: new evidence from 11-month-olds. Developmental Science 6, 130–7.
Zhao, X. W. & Li, P. (2008). Vocabulary development in English and Chinese: a comparative study with self-organizing neural networks. In Love, B. C., McRae, K. & Sloutsky, V. M. (eds), Proceedings of the 30th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, 1900–5. Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed