Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Identifying the distributional sources of children’s early vocabulary


Children’s early word learning is to a large extent driven by the prevalence of words in their language environment, with words that are spoken more often to children being learned earlier. However, children receive language from a variety of sources, including books, television, and movies meant for children, as well as speech and media that is meant for adults, but over- heard by children. Despite considerable similarity of word frequency distributions from these different input sources, there is also significant and predictable variability between them. For example, function words are far more frequent in books than in everyday speech, while early-learned nouns (e.g., ‘ball’ and ‘mommy’) are more frequent in child-directed speech than in other sources. Children receive a mixture of these different frequency distributions. The goal of this paper is to better understand the shared and unique variance in these input sources – in both English and French – and to evaluate how predictive these distributions are of children’s early word learning.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View