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Adult word recognition is influenced by prior exposure to phonologically or semantically related words (cup primes cat or plate) compared to unrelated words (door), suggesting that words are organised in the adult lexicon based on their phonological and semantic properties and that word recognition implicates not just the heard word, but also related words. We investigate the phonological organisation of the toddler lexicon with two experiments using a picture priming technique. Twenty-four month olds showed inhibition of target recognition in related primed trials compared to unrelated primed trials (Experiment 1) and also in related primed trials compared to unprimed trials (Experiment 2). Further analysis of children's responding found that this inhibition effect was modulated by the cohort and neighbourhood size of the words tested. Overall, the results indicate a lexical basis for the reported effects and suggest that the phonological properties provide an organisational basis for words in the toddler lexicon.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





196 - 206


Acoustic Stimulation, Child, Preschool, Cohort Effect, Cues, Female, Fixation, Ocular, Humans, Infant, Language, Male, Photic Stimulation, Psycholinguistics, Psychomotor Performance, Reaction Time, Recognition (Psychology), Set (Psychology), Speech