Age of Acquisition

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Age of Acquisition is a psycholinguistic variable referring to the age at which a word is typically learned. For example, the word 'penguin' is typically learned at a younger age than the word 'albatros'. Studies in psycholinguistics suggest that age of acquisition has an effect on the speed of reading words.[1] It is a particularly strong variable in predicting the speed of picture naming.[2] It has been generally found that words that are more frequent, shorter, more familiar and refer to concrete concepts are learned earlier than more complex words.[3]


Sets of normative values for age of acquisition for large sets of words have been developed.

  • Kuperman, Stadthagen-Gonzalez, and Brysbaert [4]
  • Gilhooly and Logie.[5]
  • Morrison et al.[6]

Relation to other variables[edit]

It has been disputed whether age of acquisition has an effect on word tasks on its own or by virtue of its covariance with other variables such as word frequency.[7] Alternatively, it has been suggested that the age of acquisition is related to the fact that an earlier learned word has been encountered more often.[8] These issues were partially resolved in an article by Ghyselinck, Lewis and Brysbaert.[9]

Alternatively there have been discussions of the effect that the age of acquisition has on learning a second language.


  1. ^ "Age-of-Acquisition Effects in Word and Picture Identification".
  2. ^ Brysbaert, Marc. "Aphasia and age of acquisition: are early-learned words more resilient?". Aphasiology. 30: 1240–1263. doi:10.1080/02687038.2015.1106439.
  3. ^ "CogLab: Age of Acquisition". Retrieved 2017-05-16.
  4. ^ "Age-of-acquisition ratings for 30 thousand English words".
  5. ^ Gilhooly, K. J. "Age-of-acquisition, imagery, concreteness, familiarity, and ambiguity measures for 1,944 words". Behavior Research Methods & Instrumentation. 12: 395–427. doi:10.3758/BF03201693.
  6. ^ Morrison, Catriona M. "Age of Acquisition Norms for a Large Set of Object Names and Their Relation to Adult Estimates and Other Variables". The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology Section A. 50: 528–559. doi:10.1080/027249897392017.
  7. ^ "Age-of-Acquisition Effects in Word and Picture Identification".
  8. ^ "Re-evaluating age-of-acquisition effects: are they simply cumulative-frequency effects?" (PDF).
  9. ^ Ghyselinck, Mandy. "Age of acquisition and the cumulative-frequency hypothesis: A review of the literature and a new multi-task investigation". Acta Psychologica. 115: 43–67. doi:10.1016/j.actpsy.2003.11.002.