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Child Development Research
Volume 2013, Article ID 298603, 8 pages
Research Article

A Bidirectional Relationship between Conceptual Organization and Word Learning

1Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, ON, Canada P7B 5E1
2University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA
3New York University, New York, NY 10012, USA

Received 13 August 2013; Revised 6 November 2013; Accepted 7 November 2013

Academic Editor: Olga Capirci

Copyright © 2013 Tanya Kaefer and Susan B. Neuman. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


This study explores the relationship between word learning and conceptual organization for preschool-aged children. We proposed a bidirectional model in which increases in word learning lead to increases in taxonomic organization, which, in turn, leads to further increases in word learning. In order to examine this model, we recruited 104 4-year olds from Head Start classrooms; 52 children participated in a two-week training program, and 52 children were in a control group. Results indicated that children in the training program learned more words and were more likely to sort taxonomically than children in the control condition. Furthermore, the number of words learned over the training period predicted the extent to which children categorized taxonomically. Additionally, this ability to categorize taxonomically predicted the number of words learned outside the training program, over and above the number of words learned in the program. These results suggest a bi-directional relationship between conceptual organization and word learning.