2015 | 13 | 4 | 426-449
Article title

Effects of word class and training method on vocabulary learning in a second language

Title variants
Languages of publication
It is not fully known whether nouns or verbs are easier to learn in a second language. A noun learning advantage has been observed for children in many languages (e.g., Gentner, 1982), but few have examined whether mature second language learners show a similar pattern. In the current study 84 university students were trained with nonce words for 96 familiar, concrete concepts (half nouns, half verbs), half labeled ostensibly, and half in contexts that allowed label meanings to be inferred. Vocabulary knowledge was assessed through recognition tests after a delay of either five minutes or one week. No evidence of a word class advantage was found-participants did not demonstrate a noun advantage. Ostensive training was superior to inferential training at five minutes but not after one week.
Physical description
  • Chulalongkorn University
  • Akhtar, N., Jipson, J., & Callanan, M. A. (2001). Learning words through overhearing. Child Development, 72(2), 416-430. Doi: 10.1111/1467-8624.00287.
  • Appleman, I. B. & Mayzner, M. S. (1981). The letter-frequency effect and the generality of familiarity effects on perception. Perception & Psychophysics, 30(5), 436-446. Retrieved from
  • Au, T. K. F., Dapretto, M., & Song, Y. K. (1994). Input vs constraints: Early word acquisition in Korean and English. Journal of Memory and Language, 33(5), 567-582. Doi:10.1006/jmla.1994.1027
  • Bornstein, M. H., Cote, L. R., Maital, S., Painter, K., Park, S. Y., Pascual, L., ... & Vyt, A. (2004). Cross-Linguistic Analysis of Vocabulary in Young: Spanish, Dutch, French, Hebrew, Italian, Korean, and American English. Child Development, 75(4), 1115-1139. Doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2004.00729.x.
  • Caselli, M. C., Bates, E., Casadio, P., Fenson, J., Fenson, L., Sanderl, L., & Weir, J. (1995). A cross-linguistic study of early lexical development. Cognitive Development, 10(2), 159-199. Doi: 10.1016/0885-2014(95)90008-X.
  • Childers, J. B., & Tomasello, M. (2002). Two-year-olds learn novel nouns, verbs, and conventional actions from massed or distributed exposures. Developmental psychology, 38(6), 967. Doi:
  • D'Odorico, L. A. U. R. A., & Fasolo, M. (2007). Nouns and verbs in the vocabulary acquisition of Italian children. Journal of Child Language, 34(04), 891-907. Doi:
  • Ellis, N. C., & Beaton, A. (1993). Psycholinguistic determinants of foreign language vocabulary learning. Language Learning, 43(4), 559-617. Doi: 10.1111/j.1467-1770.1993.tb00627.x.
  • Gentner, D. (1978). On relational meaning: The acquisition of verb meaning. Child Development, 988-998. Doi: 10.2307/1128738.
  • Gentner, D. (1982). Why nouns are learned before verbs: Linguistic relativity versus natural partitioning. Technical report no. 257 No. BBN-R-4854 Retrieved from
  • Gentner, D. (2006). Why verbs are hard to learn. In K. Hirsh-Pasek, & R. M. Golinkoff (Eds.), Action meets word: How children learn verbs (pp. 544-564). New York, NY, US: Oxford University Press. Doi:
  • Gentner, D., & Boroditsky, L. (2001). Individuation, relativity, and early word learning. In M. Bowerman & S. C. Levinson (Eds.), Language acquisition and conceptual development (pp. 215-256). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • Gillette, J., Gleitman, H., Gleitman, L., & Lederer, A. (1999). Human simulations of vocabulary learning. Cognition, 73, 135-176. Doi:10.1016/S0010-0277(99)00036-0.
  • Gleitman, L. R., Cassidy, K., Nappa, R., Papafragou, A., & Trueswell, J. C (2006). Hard words. Language Learning and Development, 1(1), 23-64. Doi: 10.1207/s15473341lld0101_4.
  • Goldfield, B. A. (1993). Noun bias in maternal speech to one-year-olds. Journal of Child Language, 20(01), 85-99. Doi:
  • Gopnik, A., & Choi, S. (1990). Do linguistic differences lead to cognitive differences? A cross-linguistic study of semantic and cognitive development. First Language, 10(3), 199-215. Doi: 10.1177/014272379001003002.
  • Gopnik, A., & Choi, S. (1995). Names, relational words, and cognitive development in English and Korean speakers: Nouns are not always learned before verbs. In M. Tomasello, & W. E. Merriman (Eds.), Beyond names for things: Young children's acquisition of verbs. (pp. 63-80). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associate.
  • Green, S. B. (1991). How many subjects does it take to do a regression analysis? Multivariate Behavioral Research, 26, 499-510. Doi: 10.1207/s15327906mbr2603_7.
  • Greenfield, P. M. & Alvarez, M. G. (1980) Exploiting nonverbal context to promote the acquisition of word-referent relations in a second language. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 2(1), 43-50.
  • Hosmer, D. W., Jr., & Lemeshow, S. (2000). Applied logistic regression (2nd ed.). New York, NY: John Wiley.
  • Hulstijn, J. H. (1997). Mnemonic methods in foreign language vocabulary learning. In J. Coady and T. Huckin (Eds.), Second language vocabulary acquisition: A rationale for pedagogy. (pp. 203-224). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • Huttenlocher, J., Haight, W., Bryk, A., Seltzer, M., & Lyons, T. (1991). Early vocabulary growth: Relation to language input and gender. Developmental Psychology, 27(2), 236-248. Doi:
  • Imai, M., Li, L., Haryu, E., Okada, H., Hirsh-Pasek, K., Golinkoff, R. M., & Shigematsu, J. (2008). Novel noun and verb learning in Chinese-, English-, and Japanese-speaking children. Child Development, 79(4), 979-1000. Doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2008.01171.x.
  • Isurin, L. (2000). Deserted island or a child's first language forgetting. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 3(02), 151-166. Doi:
  • Kachergis, G., Yu, C., & Shiffrin, R. M. (2012). An associative model of adaptive inference for learning word – referent mappings. Psychonomic bulletin & review, 19(2), 317-324. Doi: 10.3758/s13423-011-0194-6.
  • Levey, S., & Cruz, D. (2003). The first words produced by children in bilingual English/Mandarin Chinese environments. Communication Disorders Quarterly, 24(3), 129-136. Doi: 10.1177/15257401030240030401.
  • Ludington, J. D. (2012). Factors affecting learning of concrete nouns and verbs in a foreign language. UCLA Electronic Theses and Dissertations. Retrieved from:
  • Ludington, J. D. (2013). Cross-situational learning of foreign vocabulary reveals a possible noun bias in adulthood. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 3(4), 545-555. Doi:10.4304/tpls.3.4.545-555.
  • Ma, W., Golinkoff, R. M., Hirsh-Pasek, K., McDonough, C., & Tardif, T. (2009). Imageability predicts the age of acquisition of verbs in Chinese children. Journal of Child Language, 36(2), 405-423. Doi:
  • Markman, E. M. & Wachtel, G. F, (1988). Children's use of mutual exclusivity to constrain the meanings of words. Cognitive Psychology, 20(2), 121-157. Doi:10.1016/j.physletb.2003.10.071.
  • Nelson, D. L., & Schreiber, T. A. (1992). Word concreteness and word structure as independent determinants of recall. Journal of Memory and Language, 31(2), 237-260. Doi:10.1016/0749-596X(92)90013-N.
  • Naigles, L. R. (1990). Children use syntax to learn verb meanings. Journal of Child Language, 17(2), 357-374. Doi:
  • Oxford, R., & Crookall, D. (1990). Vocabulary learning: A critical analysis of techniques. TESL Canada Journal, 7(2), 9-30. Retrieved from
  • Piccin, T. B., & Waxman, S. R. (2007). Why nouns trump verbs in word learning: New evidence from children and adults in the Human Simulation Paradigm. Language Learning and Development, 3(4), 295-323.
  • Pinker, S. (1994). The language instinct: How the mind creates language. New York, NY: William Morrow & Company.
  • Sandhofer, C. M., Smith, L. B., & Luo, J. (2000). Counting nouns and verbs in the input: Differential frequencies, different kinds of learning? Journal of Child Language, 27(3), 561-585. Doi:
  • Sandhofer, C., & Smith, L. B. (2007). Learning adjectives in the real world: How learning nouns impedes learning adjectives. Language Learning and Development, 3(3), 233-267. Doi:10.1080/15475440701360465.
  • Schwartz, R. G., & Leonard, L. B. (1984). Words, objects, and actions in early lexical acquisition. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 27(1), 119-127. Doi:10.1044/jshr.2701.119.
  • Schwanenflugel, P. J., Akin, C., & Luh, W. M. (1992). Context availability and the recall of abstract and concrete words. Memory & Cognition, 20(1), 96-104. Retrieved from
  • Seidl, A., & Johnson, E. K. (2006). Infant word segmentation revisited: Edge alignment facilitates target extraction. Developmental Science, 9(6), 565-573. Doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7687.2006.00534.x.
  • Snedeker, J. & Gleitman, L. R. (2004). Why is it hard to label our concepts? In D. G. Hall and S. R. Waxman (Eds.), Weaving a lexicon (pp. 257-293). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Tardif, T., Shatz, M., & Naigles, L. (1997). Caregiver speech and children's use of nouns versus verbs: A comparison of English, Italian, and Mandarin. Journal of Child Language, 24(3), 535-565. Doi:
  • Tomasello, M. (1992). The social bases of language acquisition. Social Development, 1(1), 67-87. Doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9507.1992.tb00135.x.
  • Tomasello, M. (2003). Constructing a language: A usage-based approach to child language acquisition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • UCLA Statistical Consulting Group. (n.a.). Lesson 3: Logistic regression diagnostics. Retrieved on Jan. 25, 2015 from
  • Vitevitch, M. S. & Luce, P. A. (1999). Probabilistic phonotactics and neighborhood activation in spoken word recognition. Journal of Memory and Language, 40, 374-408. Doi:10.1006/jmla.1998.2618.
  • Waxman, S. R., & Lidz, J. L. (2006). Early word learning. In D. Kuhn, R. S. Siegler, W. Damon & R. M. Lerner (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology: Vol. 2, Cognition, perception, and language (6th ed.). (pp. 299-335). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. Doi: 10.1002/9780470147658.chpsy0207.
Document Type
Publication order reference
YADDA identifier
JavaScript is turned off in your web browser. Turn it on to take full advantage of this site, then refresh the page.