The role of elicited verbal imitation in toddlers' word learning

Rosemary Hodges, Natalie Munro, Elise Baker, Karla McGregor, Kimberley Docking, Joanne Arciuli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


This study is about the role of elicited verbal imitation in toddler word learning. Forty-eight toddlers were taught eight nonwords linked to referents. During training, they were asked to imitate the nonwords. Naming of the referents was tested at three intervals (one minute later [uncued], five minutes, and 1-7 days later [cued]) and recognition at the last two intervals. Receptive vocabulary, nonword repetition, and expressive phonology were assessed. The accuracy of elicited imitation during training predicted naming at one and five minutes, but not 1-7 days later. Neither nonword repetition nor expressive phonology was associated with naming over time but extant vocabulary predicted performance at all time intervals. We hypothesize that elicited imitation facilitates word learning in its earliest stages by supporting encoding of the word form into memory and allowing practice of the articulatory-phonological plan. At later stages, vocabulary facilitates integration of the word form into the lexical network.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)457-471
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Child Language
Issue number2
Early online date4 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Verbal learning
  • Word learning
  • Preschool children
  • Naming
  • Phonology
  • Nonsense words
  • Vocabulary learning
  • Child language acquisition


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