Gender Differences in Subjective Age of Word Acquisition


Studies in language development have shown that throughout childhood and adolescence girls are more advanced in language acquisition than boys. However, researchers in psycholinguistics have paid little attention to gender differences in subjective age of acquisition (AoA) - people's reports of the age at which they think they learned a particular word. The aim of this study was to examine gender differences in AoA and its predictors. Words (295 nouns, 256 verbs, 216 adjectives) from the Croatian psycholinguistic database MEGACRO, for which psycholinguistic properties had been estimated by at least 10 men and 10 women, were tested for gender differences in AoA and its predictors. Mixed ANOVA showed that women report statistically significantly lower AoA than men. The average difference was half a year, but the magnutude of the difference varied statistically significantly across word types. Correlation between men's and women's AoA was very high, revealing that the order of learning words is very similar for women and men. Hierarchical regression analyses showed that objective (length and frequency) and psycholinguistic (concreteness, imageability, and subjective frequency) word features better predict women's than men's AoA. The most powerful predictors of both men's and women's AoA were subjective frequency and imageability. Word length also predicted both genders' AoA, but at a low level. Concreteness was predictive only for women's, and objective word frequency only for men's AoA. The study extends our knowledge about gender differences in language acquisition, showing important differences in men's and women's subjective AoA.

Author Information
Gordana Kerestes, University of Zagreb, Croatia
Mirjana Tonkovic, University of Zagreb, Croatia
Anita Peti-Stantic, University of Zagreb, Croatia

Paper Information
Conference: ACL2020
Stream: Language Acquisition

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