Frequent vs. infrequent words shape toddlers' real-time sentence comprehension

Christine E. Potter, Casey Lew-Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


We examined how noun frequency and the typicality of surrounding linguistic context contribute to children's real-time comprehension. Monolingual English-learning toddlers viewed pairs of pictures while hearing sentences with typical or atypical sentence frames (Look at the... vs. Examine the...), followed by nouns that were higher- or lower-frequency labels for a referent (horse vs. pony). Toddlers showed no significant differences in comprehension of nouns in typical and atypical sentence frames. However, they were less accurate in recognizing lower-frequency nouns, particularly among toddlers with smaller vocabularies. We conclude that toddlers can recognize nouns in diverse sentence contexts, but their representations develop gradually.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Child Language
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • General Psychology


  • frequency effects
  • language development
  • language processing
  • statistical learning
  • word representations


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