From a psycholinguistic perspective, the quality of the stored word form in the phonological input lexicon, as well as its effective retrieval from the phonological output lexicon, is of great importance in lexical processing. This study aimed at gaining a deeper understanding of (a)typical word form processing in primary school children. In particular, age-related development and profiles of word form processing including children's response behavior were investigated.


A sample of 164 monolingual primary school children (6–9 years of age) was tested in a cross-sectional design using two word form–related tasks (auditory lexical decision and rapid naming) with carefully controlled stimuli in combination with traditional vocabulary tests and a nonword repetition task.


First, an age-related improvement (better performance and acceleration of reaction times) was found for both word form–related tasks. Second, a cluster analysis revealed five clusters with different profiles of word processing. Beside a cluster with overall results of above average, we found two clusters including children with typical lexical abilities who applied specific strategies to deal with the tasks (speed–accuracy trade-offs). Two other clusters represented weak lexical abilities at different levels of word processing.


Children's abilities in word form processing develop over time and are characterized by developmental boosts that occur at different times in development. The uncovered profiles document patterns of (a)typical lexical processing. Since difficulties with word form processing are easily overlooked in clinical assessment, lexical decision and rapid naming tasks offer valuable tools for an in-depth evaluation of lexical skills.

Supplemental Material



Additional Resources