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1 - The mechanisms behind and effects of early lexical-semantic networks

Fri, April 7, 12:15 to 1:45pm, Austin Convention Center, Meeting Room 16B

Session Type: Paper Symposium

Integrative Statement

The organization of words into a lexical-semantic network underlies our ability to process language fluently and efficiently, and yet only recently have researchers begun to study lexical-semantic relationships in early development. The four papers in this symposium examine the developmental factors and mechanisms behind lexical-semantic networks in toddlers (papers 1 & 2) and how these networks influence early language processing and word learning (papers 3 & 4).

Paper 1 uses an auditory priming task with mono and bilinguals to show that semantic relationships between English words are stronger for 24-month-olds with larger English vocabularies and more exposure to English. Paper 2 employs an event-related potential task to demonstrate that French-Spanish bilingual toddlers use similar neural mechanisms to process word familiarity, but distinct mechanisms for lexical-semantic associations in each of their languages. Paper 3 shows that English-learning 18-month-olds’ lexical processing, as measured with eye-tracking, is facilitated when the target word is from a dense semantic category network, and also that only toddlers with higher vocabularies experience interference from related distractors. Paper 4 uses an intermodal priming procedure to show that semantic priming is stronger for words from high-density networks in German toddlers, while also investigating whether semantic category density affects novel word learning. Notably, each paper uses a unique method and language group, allowing for cross-linguistic and cross-task generalization and integration. Together, these papers push forward our understanding of early lexical-semantic relationships, uncovering the mechanisms behind and effects of these networks in the first years of life.

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