Document Type


Subject Area(s)

Child; Dyslexia; Humans; Language Development Disorders; Language Tests; Verbal Learning; Vocabulary


Purpose Word learning difficulties have been documented in multiple studies involving children with dyslexia and developmental language disorder (DLD; see also specific language impairment). However, no previous studies have directly contrasted word learning in these two frequently co-occurring disorders. We examined word learning in second-grade students with DLD-only and dyslexia-only as compared to each other, peers with both disorders (DLD + dyslexia), and peers with typical development. We hypothesized that children with dyslexia-only and DLD-only would show differences in word learning due to differences in their core language strengths and weaknesses. Method Children ( = 244) were taught eight novel pseudowords paired with unfamiliar objects. The teaching script included multiple exposures to the phonological form, the pictured object, a verbal semantic description of the object, and spaced retrieval practice opportunities. Word learning was assessed immediately after instruction with tasks requiring recall or recognition of the phonological and semantic information. Results Children with dyslexia-only performed significantly better on existing vocabulary measures than their peers with DLD-only. On experimental word learning measures, children in the dyslexia-only and DLD + dyslexia groups showed significantly poorer performance than typically developing children on all word learning tasks. Children with DLD-only differed significantly from the TD group on a single word learning task assessing verbal semantic recall. Conclusions Overall, results indicated that children with dyslexia display broad word learning difficulties extending beyond the phonological domain; however, this contrasted with their relatively strong performance on measures of existing vocabulary knowledge. More research is needed to understand relations between word learning abilities and overall vocabulary knowledge and how to close vocabulary gaps for children with both disorders. Supplemental Material

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

APA Citation

Adlof, S., Baron, L., Bell, B., & Scoggins, J. (2021). Spoken Word Learning in Children With Developmental Language Disorder or Dyslexia. Journal Of Speech, Language, And Hearing Research, 64(7), 2734-2749.