Orthographic learning, fast and slow

lexical competition effects reveal the time course of word learning in developing readers

Niina Tamura, Anne Castles, Kate Nation*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Citations (Scopus)
15 Downloads (Pure)


Children learn new words via their everyday reading experience but little is known about how this learning happens. We addressed this by focusing on the conditions needed for new words to become familiar to children, drawing a distinction between lexical configuration (the acquisition of word knowledge) and lexical engagement (the emergence of interactive processes between newly learned words and existing words). In Experiment 1, 9–11-year-olds saw unfamiliar words in one of two storybook conditions, differing in degree of focus on the new words but matched for frequency of exposure. Children showed good learning of the novel words in terms of both configuration (form and meaning) and engagement (lexical competition). A frequency manipulation under incidental learning conditions in Experiment 2 revealed different time-courses of learning: a fast lexical configuration process, indexed by explicit knowledge, and a slower lexicalization process, indexed by lexical competition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-102
Number of pages10
Early online date14 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2017. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • lexical consolidation
  • orthographic learning
  • reading development

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