When is a word a word: The development of word knowledge

Ray R. Buss, Robert C. Coon, Elizabeth B. Williford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present study was conducted to determine if children’s increasing knowledge of wordness could be characterized as conforming to a system of successively mastered levels of understanding similar to acquisitions in a number of other cognitive domains. Stimuli differing on dimensions of word appearance and meaning were presented to first-, third-, fifth-, and seventh-grade students and to college students, who were required to identify whether or not each stimulus was a word and to indicate their certainty about these decisions. The validity of a hierarchical system of levels of understanding of wordness was confirmed. In addition, developmental predictions about accuracy and certainty were supported. It was concluded that children’s word knowledge is not unidimensional but involves several underlying component processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)271-278
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Genetic Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1987
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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