Wordlikeness and Novel Word Learning

James BartolottiNorthwestern University
Viorica MarianNorthwestern University


Many adults struggle with second language acquisition, but learn new words in their native language relatively easily. Most second language words do not follow native language patterns, but those that do may be easier to learn because they make use of existing language knowledge. Twenty English monolinguals learned to recognize and produce 48 novel written words in five repeated testing blocks. Half of the words were wordlike (e.g., 'nish') in form (high neighborhood density, high orthotactic probability), while half were not (e.g., 'gofp'). Participants were more accurate at recognizing and producing wordlike compared to unwordlike items. In addition, participants were faster to respond correctly in wordlike trials. English vocabulary size predicted wordlike learning, while phonological memory predicted learning for both wordlike and unwordlike items. Results suggest that existing language knowledge affects acquisition of novel written vocabulary, with consequences for second language instruction.


Wordlikeness and Novel Word Learning (196 KB)

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