Early language development: vocabulary comparison of Slovenian boys and girls Dr. Ljubica Marjanovič Umek, Nera Božin, Nika Čermak, Neža Štiglic and Saša Bajc in dr. Urška Fekonja Peklaj
Summary: In this longitudinal study, we examined qualitative and quantitative changes in and the effect of gender on the vocabulary development of a sample of Slovenian toddlers (28 boys, 23 girls). In addition, we analysed the use of gender-typed words in boys’ and girls’ vocabularies. Parents assessed toddlers’ vocabulary 6 times over a 15-month period, at the ages of 16, 19, 22, 25, 28 and 31 months. Gender-typed words were identified by 40 adults, who indicated words stereotypically associated with either feminine or masculine gender concepts in a shortened version of CDI: Words and Sentences. The obtained results show that toddlers’ vocabulary developed rapidly, while there were great individual differences in the vocabulary size of toddlers of the same age. Growth curve analysis shows that the increase in toddlers’ vocabulary followed an S-shaped growth curve. As they grew older, toddlers also used more words from each word group. The size of girls’ and boys’ vocabularies did not differ significantly at different ages. Boys’ vocabularies included more masculine-typed words than feminine-typed words, and girls’ vocabularies more feminine-typed words than masculine-typed words. However, the differences in the number of feminine- and masculine-typed words in boys’ and girls’ vocabularies were not statistically significant. These findings emphasise the importance of early language development and the need to develop different approaches to encourage vocabulary development in the family and preschool environments.