Novel-word learning deficits in Mandarin-speaking preschool children with specific language impairments

Yuchun Chen, Huei Mei Liu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Children with SLI exhibit overall deficits in novel word learning compared to their age-matched peers. However, the manifestation of the word learning difficulty in SLI was not consistent across tasks and the factors affecting the learning performance were not yet determined. Our aim is to examine the extent of word learning difficulties in Mandarin-speaking preschool children with SLI, and to explore the potent influence of existing lexical knowledge on to the word learning process. Preschool children with SLI (n=37) and typical language development (n=33) were exposed to novel words for unfamiliar objects embedded in stories. Word learning tasks including the initial mapping and short-term repetitive learning were designed. Results revealed that Mandarin-speaking preschool children with SLI performed as well as their age-peers in the initial form-meaning mapping task. Their word learning difficulty was only evidently shown in the short-term repetitive learning task under a production demand, and their learning speed was slower than the control group. Children with SLI learned the novel words with a semantic head better in both the initial mapping and repetitive learning tasks. Moderate correlations between stand word learning performances and scores on standardized vocabulary were found after controlling for children's age and nonverbal IQ. The results suggested that the word learning difficulty in children with SLI occurred in the process of establishing a robust phonological representation at the beginning stage of word learning. Also, implicit compound knowledge is applied to aid word learning process for children with and without SLI. We also provide the empirical data to validate the relationship between preschool children's word learning performance and their existing receptive vocabulary ability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10-20
Number of pages11
JournalResearch in Developmental Disabilities
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Jan


  • Fast mapping
  • Mandarin compound
  • Specific language impairment (SLI)
  • Word learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Novel-word learning deficits in Mandarin-speaking preschool children with specific language impairments'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this