Dynamic self-organization and early lexical development in children

Ping Li, X. Zhao, B. MacWhinney

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

114 Citations (Scopus)


In this study we present a self-organizing connectionist model of early lexical development. We call this model DevLex-II, based on the earlier DevLex model. DevLex-II can simulate a variety of empirical patterns in children's acquisition of words. These include a clear vocabulary spurt, effects of word frequency and length on age of acquisition, and individual differences as a function of phonological short-term memory and associative capacity. Further results from lesioned models indicate developmental plasticity in the network's recovery from damage, in a non-monotonic fashion. We attribute the network's abilities in accounting for lexical development to interactive dynamics in the learning process. In particular, variations displayed by the model in the rate and size of early vocabulary development are modulated by (a) input characteristics, such as word frequency and word length, (b) consolidation of lexical-semantic representation, meaning-form association, and phonological short-term memory, and (c) delayed processes due to interactions among timing, severity, and recoverability of lesion. Together, DevLex and DevLex-II provide an accurate computational account of early lexical development. Copyright © 2007 Cognitive Science Society, Inc. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)581-612
Number of pages32
JournalCognitive Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • DevLex
  • Language acquisition
  • Neural networks
  • Self-organization
  • Vocabulary spurt
  • Word learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Artificial Intelligence


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