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Size matters: Early vocabulary as a predictor of language and literacy competence

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 October 2010

Wilfrid Laurier University
ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE Joanne Lee, Department of Psychology, Wilfrid Laurier University, 75 University Avenue West, Waterloo, ON N2L 3C5, Canada. E-mail:


This paper investigated the predictive ability of expressive vocabulary size and lexical composition at age 2 on later language and literacy skills from ages 3 through 11. Multivariate analysis of covariance was performed to compare 16 language and literacy outcomes between children with large expressive vocabulary size at 24 months (N = 1,073) and those with smaller expressive vocabulary size. Comparisons between large and small verb size groups as a measure of lexical composition were also conducted. Our findings indicate that, after controlling for gender, birth order, ethnicity and socioeconomic status, total vocabulary size at age 2 can significantly predict subsequent language and literacy achievement up to fifth grade. Moreover, vocabulary size is a better predictor of later language ability than lexical composition.

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