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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02252

Orthographic Networks in the Developing Mental Lexicon. Insights from Graph Theory and Implications for the Study of Language Processing

  • 1Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung, Germany

In this study, we examine the development of orthographic networks in the mental lexicon using graph theory. According to this view, words are represented by nodes in a network and connected as a function of their orthographic similarity. With a sampling approach based on a language corpus for German school children, we were able to simulate lexical development for children from Grade 1 to 8. By sampling different lexicon sizes from the corpus, we were able to analyze the content of the orthographic lexicon at different time points and examined network characteristics using graph theory. Results show that, similar to semantic and phonological networks, orthographic networks possess small-word characteristics defined by short average path lengths between nodes and strong local clustering. Moreover, the interconnectivity of the network decreases with growth. Implications for the study of the effect of network measures on language processing are discussed.

Keywords: mental Lexicon, networks, Orthographic neighbourhood, graph theory, Reading development

Received: 06 Aug 2018; Accepted: 30 Oct 2018.

Edited by:

Chotiga Pattamadilok, Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), France

Reviewed by:

Jeremy Purcell, University of Maryland, College Park, United States
Eddy Cavalli, Lumière University Lyon 2, France  

Copyright: © 2018 Trautwein and Schroeder. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Sascha Schroeder, Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung, Berlin, 14195, Berlin, Germany,