Imageability predicts the age of acquisition of verbs in Chinese children

Weiyi Ma*, Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Colleen McDonough, Twila Tardif

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    66 Citations (Scopus)


    Verbs are harder to learn than nouns in English and in many other languages, but are relatively easy to learn in Chinese. This paper evaluates one potential explanation for these findings by examining the construct of imageability, or the ability of a word to produce a mental image. Chinese adults rated the imageability of Chinese words from the Chinese Communicative Development Inventory (Tardif et al., in press). Imageability ratings were a reliable predictor of age of acquisition in Chinese for both nouns and verbs. Furthermore, whereas early Chinese and English nouns do not differ in imageability, verbs receive higher imageability ratings in Chinese than in English. Compared with input frequency, imageability independently accounts for a portion of the variance in age of acquisition (AoA) of verb learning in Chinese and English.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)405-423
    Number of pages19
    JournalJournal of Child Language
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2009

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