Can we define a Process describing the way we discover and learn new words in our mother tongue? This could apply to a child who is learning to speak as well to an adult.

Consider that you discover a new word (e.g. by interacting with someone, reading a book or listening to a speech). I would say that first you try to infer the meaning thanks to the context and then you refine over time the meaning by finding other sentence examples or by looking at synonyms. Finally when you're confident about the way you understand the meaning of the word, you allow yourself use this word when speaking/writting. It can be possible that by using this word when interacting with people, people might point out to you the fact that you misuse the word and correct you.

Knowing that, the process would be the following:

  1. discover a new word
  2. infer a rough meaning thanks to the context
  3. refine the meaning by collecting examples/synonyms
  4. use the word
  5. get feedback/meaning verification

Steps 3, 4 and 5 could be performed in parallel. When reaching step 5 you could also go back to step 3 or 4.

However I'm not really not sure about this process, that's why I'm looking for studies or papers describing the process of learning new words in our mother tongue. Even if you don't have references, I'm curious about your own point of view about the subject.

Thanks for your help! :)

  • 1
    Hi and welcome to Language Learning Stack Exchange. Based on your description, it seems that you are specifically interested in picking up vocabulary in one's native language through reading. The question title is much broader, however, since it suggest that the question may be about learning new words through speech (either before or after becoming literate) or through deliberate study. It might help to make the question title more specific. – Tsundoku Oct 7 '20 at 15:54
  • Are you actually interested in a scientific paper, or just want to know a way how to do it? – Helena Oct 7 '20 at 21:38
  • I tried to refine my question and the description, I hope it would help :) – Mathilde Veron Oct 8 '20 at 13:40

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