Word characteristics such as frequency, imageability, concreteness and length are considered good predictors of performance in lexical tasks like picture naming, word comprehension or lexical decision-making. There is also evidence that the age of acquisition (AoA) of words can partly explain aspects of word processing behaviour in later childhood and adulthood (Morrison et al., 1992; Brysbaert & Cortese, 2010).
In the present study, we collected AoA norms for 158 nouns and 142 verbs in 22 languages: Afrikaans, British English, Catalan, Danish, Finnish, German, Hebrew, Irish, IsiXhosa, Italian, Lithuanian, Luxembourgish, Maltese, Norwegian, Polish, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, South African English, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish. In a preparatory picture naming procedure, adult native speakers of 34 languages were asked to name 508 object and 504 action pictures. Words shared among the target languages were retained for the final corpus.
Our study followed the typical procedure for establishing AoA (see Morrison et al. 1997) and was performed on-line (see www.words-psych.org). 804 adult participants (at least 20 for each language) were asked to specify the age at which they learned the words in their native language.
The vast majority of words were rated as acquired by the age of 7 years, demonstrating overlap in early vocabulary across diverse languages. Significant correlations between all language pairs point to a similar developmental sequence for the words under investigation.
No previous study has compared AoA judgements on a shared set of words in a wide range of languages. 'The AoA data collected in the 22 languages provides word characteristics that should assist the design of cross-linguistic psycholinguistic experiments and the preparation of materials for use in the assessment and treatment of language disorders in preschool children. The AoA data are currently being used to control for AoA in the construction of cross-linguistic lexical tasks assessing word knowledge in monolingual and bilingual children.