Children's Lexical Expertise

Open Access
Arkenberg, Marnie Elaine
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
September 19, 2005
Committee Members:
  • Keith E Nelson, Committee Chair
  • Carol Anne Miller, Committee Member
  • Judith Fran Kroll, Committee Member
  • Jeffrey G Parker, Committee Member
  • Children
  • expertise
  • word learning
  • vocabulary
There are several indications that the process of children’s word-learning and the development of expertise are similar. These clues are found in both theoretical contentions and in prior intervention work. However several pieces of evidence were needed to make the link between lexical acquisition and expertise development explicit. The present research study provides that evidence. In a microgenetic study 4-year-old children were taught 450 new lexical items from three animal domains. Across 3 months children showed patterns of lexical learning that are similar to longer-term patterns of learning displayed by experts. Children also showed show evidence of increasing memory, perception, attention and abstraction- cognitive abilities that evidence advanced performance in experts and that are associated with increased domain knowledge. Finally the children showed evidence of characteristic patterns of behavior previously documented in experts. It is argued that children who are learning words can be thought of as developing lexical expertise or “lexpertise”.