The effect of homonymy on learning correctly articulated versus misarticulated words

Holly L. Storkel, Junko Maekawa, Andrew J. Aschenbrenner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Purpose: The goal of the current study was to examine the effect of homonymy (learning a second meaning for a known word form vs. learning a novel meaning and novel word form) and articulation accuracy (IN vs. OUT sounds) on word learning by preschool children. An added goal was to determine whether word frequency altered the effect of homonymy on word learning. Method: Twenty-nine 3- to 4-year-old children were taught homonyms and novel words. Stimuli further varied in whether homonymy was present in both the adult input and the child's output (as for IN sounds) versus present only in the child's output (as for OUT sounds). Results: For IN sounds, children learned homonyms more rapidly than novel words. Moreover, the homonym advantage was modulated by word frequency, such that children learned a new meaning for a high-frequency word more accurately than they learned a new meaning for a low-frequency word. In contrast, for OUT sounds, there was no evidence that homonymy influenced learning. Conclusions: Homonymy in the adult input facilitates word learning by preschool children, whereas homonymy in the child's output alone does not. This effect is captured in a usage-based model of phonology and the lexicon.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)694-707
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2013


  • Articulation
  • Children
  • Vocabulary


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