Prof. Kate Nation


Charting the development of lexical quality in children’s reading development

Words vary in lexical quality: we all know some words well, others less so. Where does this variability come from and how does it relate to people’s lexical processing?  In current work we are investigating the hypothesis that that variations in lexical quality are a product of language experience, especially reading experience. I will describe two experimental approaches designed to test this hypothesis in complementary ways.  First, large scale corpus analyses that capture the content and nature of children’s reading experience (with particular reference to semantic diversity) and relate this to children’s lexical processing in a range of tasks tapping word reading, semantic judgment and reading comprehension. Second, small scale and tightly controlled laboratory training experiments that directly manipulate features of the learning environment and measure how this influences lexical learning and lexical processing. I will conclude by framing lexical quality as the dynamic and on-going product of encounters with language, starting in childhood but continuing throughout life.


Kate Nation is Professor in Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of St John’s College, Oxford. Her research is concerned with language processing, especially reading development.  She is interested in how children learn to read words and comprehend text, and more generally, the relationship between spoken language and written language. A key aim at present is to specify some of the mechanisms involved in the transition from novice to expert. She also studies language processing in skilled adults, addressing the issue of how skilled behaviour emerges via language learning experience, and reading processes in people with developmental disorders that influence reading and language. For more information visit and follow on twitter @ReadOxford.

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