The Early Word Catches the Weights

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 13 (NIPS 2000)

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Mark Smith, Garrison Cottrell, Karen Anderson


The strong correlation between the frequency of words and their naming latency has been well documented. However, as early as 1973, the Age of Acquisition (AoA) of a word was alleged to be the actual variable of interest, but these studies seem to have been ignored in most of the lit(cid:173) erature. Recently, there has been a resurgence of interest in AoA. While some studies have shown that frequency has no effect when AoA is con(cid:173) trolled for, more recent studies have found independent contributions of frequency and AoA. Connectionist models have repeatedly shown strong effects of frequency, but little attention has been paid to whether they can also show AoA effects. Indeed, several researchers have explicitly claimed that they cannot show AoA effects. In this work, we explore these claims using a simple feed forward neural network. We find a sig(cid:173) nificant contribution of AoA to naming latency, as well as conditions under which frequency provides an independent contribution.