What's in a name? Preschoolers' noun learning performance in relation to their risk for reading disability

Megan Louise Gilliver, Brian Byrne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


This paper reports the findings of an investigation aimed at gaining a clearer understanding of the nature of vocabulary difficulties associated with dyslexia and associated risk status. Three studies were conducted to examine preschoolers' access and mastery of syntactic- and phonological-based processes believed to support word learning. Results are reported for 82 participants whose (reading) risk status was assessed from a composite of measures known to be related to reading development. As expected, risk status correlated positively with participants' ability to recall the phonological form of novel nouns. No relationship was found between risk status and participants' use of syntactic form-class cues in interpreting the noun class of novel names in isolation. However, the ability to use form-class cues was impaired for at-risk participants on a task that required them to learn both the phonological form and noun class. Findings are discussed in relation to the suggestion that limitations in processing resources such as working memory rather than in the availability of language structures may be at the root of the reported poor performance by at-risk children on vocabulary and other linguistic measures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)637-659
Number of pages23
JournalReading and Writing
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Language development
  • Noun learning
  • Preschoolers
  • Reading
  • Reading disability
  • Vocabulary


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