Comparing Auditory and Written Word Learning in School-aged Children and Adolescents, and Identifying Factors That Contribute to Success




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The purpose of this study was to examine developmental differences in children’s ability to deduce the meaning of unknown words from the surrounding linguistic context in the auditory and written modalities, and to identify the most important predictors of success in each modality. Eighty-nine children ages 8-15 either read or listened to a narrative that included eight novel words, with five exposures to each novel word. After the story, they participated in three posttests to assess how many word meanings they were able to deduce from the context of the story. Results showed higher scores in the written modality than in the auditory modality. A relative weights analysis revealed that age, vocabulary, and working memory were the most important predictors of success in the word meaning deduction tasks regardless of modality. Surprisingly, reading comprehension did not greatly influence success in the written modality, and language comprehension did not greatly influence success in the auditory modality. This study provides evidence that the written modality provides better support for novel word learning for children with larger vocabularies and better working memory abilities.



Psychology, Developmental, Health Sciences, Speech Pathology, Psychology, Cognitive