Lexical development in Hebrew

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Lexical acquisition in Hebrew is governed by general developmental principles that are shared with other languages, such as an initial preference for (concrete) nouns followed by verbs and adjectives. The protracted nature of the process from early words to proficiency is also shared with other languages. On the other hand, typologically-driven sensitivity to the internal structure of words and the Semitic consonantal root combines with such general trends to yield an interesting U-shaped learning curve in terms of generality/specificity, as follows: An early general lexicon that does not differentiate between derived and nonderived words, followed by pronounced sensitivity to Hebrew wordformation typology from the later pre-school years (around age 4 to 5) and on through school age, leading up to a highly specialized literate lexicon that includes two major sub-lexicons, of non-derived and derived, typically Semitic words. The chapter delineates the path that Hebrew-speaking children and adolescents follow in acquiring a flexible and proficient lexicon made up of both types of (content) words.


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