Ratings of age of acquisition of 299 words across 25 languages: Is there a cross-linguistic order of words?

Magdalena Łuniewska, Ewa Haman, Sharon Armon-Lotem, Bartłomiej Etenkowski, Frenette Southwood, Darinka Anđelković, Elma Blom, Tessel Boerma, Shula Chiat, Pascale Engel de Abreu, Natalia Gagarina, Anna Gavarró, Gisela Håkansson, Tina Hickey, Kristine Jensen de López, Theodoros Marinis, Maša Popović, Elin Thordardottir, Agnė Blažienė, Myriam Cantú SánchezIneta Dabašinskienė, Pınar Ege, Inger Anne Ehret, Nelly Ann Fritsche, Daniela Gatt, Bibi Janssen, Maria Kambanaros, Svetlana Kapalková, Bjarke Kronqvist, Sari Kunnari, Chiara Levorato, Olga Nenonen, Siobhán Nic Fhlannchadha, Ciara O’Toole, Kamila Polišenská, Barbara Pomiechowska, Natalia Ringblom, Tanja Rinker, Maja Roch, Maja Savić, Daniela Slančová, Ianthi Maria Tsimpli, Özlem Ünal-Logacev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


We present a new set of subjective age-of-acquisition (AoA) ratings for 299 words (158 nouns, 141 verbs) in 25 languages from five language families (Afro-Asiatic: Semitic languages; Altaic: one Turkic language: Indo-European: Baltic, Celtic, Germanic, Hellenic, Slavic, and Romance languages; Niger-Congo: one Bantu language; Uralic: Finnic and Ugric languages). Adult native speakers reported the age at which they had learned each word. We present a comparison of the AoA ratings across all languages by contrasting them in pairs. This comparison shows a consistency in the orders of ratings across the 25 languages. The data were then analyzed (1) to ascertain how the demographic characteristics of the participants influenced AoA estimations and (2) to assess differences caused by the exact form of the target question (when did you learn vs. when do children learn this word); (3) to compare the ratings obtained in our study to those of previous studies; and (4) to assess the validity of our study by comparison with quasi-objective AoA norms derived from the MacArthur–Bates Communicative Development Inventories (MB-CDI). All 299 words were judged as being acquired early (mostly before the age of 6 years). AoA ratings were associated with the raters’ social or language status, but not with the raters’ age or education. Parents reported words as being learned earlier, and bilinguals reported learning them later. Estimations of the age at which children learn the words revealed significantly lower ratings of AoA. Finally, comparisons with previous AoA and MB-CDI norms support the validity of the present estimations. Our AoA ratings are available for research or other purposes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1154-1177
Number of pages24
JournalBehavior Research Methods
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was designed as part of a multilingual parallel construction procedure of the LITMUS Cross-Linguistic Lexical Tasks within the networking program COST Action IS0804 “Language Impairment in a Multilingual Society: Linguistic Patterns and the Road to Assessment” ( www.bi-sli.org ; 2010-2013). The research (website design and maintenance) was supported by the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education (Grant No. 809/N-COST/2010/0, awarded to the Faculty of Psychology, University of Warsaw, in cooperation with Institute of Psychology, Jagiellonian University; Principal Investigators: Ewa Haman & Zofia Wodniecka). We are grateful to all assistants who contributed to participant recruitment and to all informants in the 25 languages who participated in the study.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, Psychonomic Society, Inc.


  • Age of acquisition
  • AoA
  • Cross-linguistic comparison
  • Subjective ratings
  • Words


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