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Understanding the effects of dialect familiarity on lexical processing efficiency in preschool children using the visual world paradigm

Research compendium for our poster at BUCLD 42:

Erskine, M. E., Mahr, T., & Edwards, J. R. (2017, November). Understanding the effects of dialect familiarity on lexical processing efficiency in preschool children using the visual world paradigm. Poster session at the 42nd annual Boston University Conference on Language Development, Boston, MA.

Repository contents

Analysis notebooks

01-download-data.Rmd (output) downloads the raw data from our lab's internal database. It cannot be reproduced by people outside our lab. Therefore, I try to keep the script brief and have it save the needed data into the folder data-raw. Later processing steps can be reproduced.

02-screen-data.Rmd (output) screens the raw eyetracking data, removing trials and participants with excessive missing data.

03-eyetracking-data.Rmd (output) provides summary statistics about the participants and includes various plots of the eyetracking data from the experiment.

04-gca-models.Rmd (output) runs growth curve analyses for the data and prepares various plots for the poster.


data-raw/: Raw data downloaded from the database.

data/: Screened data ready for plotting or modeling.

Large csv files are saved as compressed .csv.gz files. The readr package, specifically the function readr::read_csv(), can automatically uncompress these files.

assets/: The image files and model caches for the notebooks are stored here.


erskine-mahr-edwards-dialect.pdf contains the poster.

Makefile is a makefile to automate running and rendering the notebook files.

The code's LICENSE is the GPL-3, but I don't think that should matter because the code is really tailored for this data-set. The data is copyrighted and belongs to the University of Wisconsin–Madison,

Additional information

Reproducibility tips

Don't hesitate to ask here with an issue or by emailing Tristan. These things can be finicky on other people's computers.

This code should install most of the needed packages. Otherwise, the session-info at the bottom of each script has the version and provenance of all R packages used.

install.packages(c("knitr", "rmarkdown", "tidyverse", "lme4", 
                 "yaml", "polypoly", "devtools", "rprojroot",
                 "viridis", "hrbrthemes"))

The easiest way to reproduce the analysis is to clone the repository from GitHub into an RStudio project. In RStudio: File > New Project > Version Control > Git > paste in the URL of this repository. You can "Knit" the individual Rmd files to run and compile the notebooks, or you can use the Build tab to run the Makefile which updates any files that need to be updated.

Abstract from conference handbook

Understanding the effects of dialect familiarity on lexical processing efficiency in preschool children using the visual world paradigm

Michelle Erskine (University of Maryland)
Tristan Mahr (University of Wisconsin–Madison)
Jan Edwards (University of Maryland)

Successful language learning relies on children’s ability to recognize familiar words quickly and accurately. Children who speak a nonmainstream dialect at home experience the added challenge of recognizing words in both their familiar home dialect and the unfamiliar school dialect when they begin school. This study used the visual world paradigm to evaluate the effect of dialect familiarity on spoken word recognition in young children who spoke either a nonmainstream dialect of English, African American English (AAE), or a mainstream dialect of English, General American English (GAE). Our results suggest children, as early as age 4, have flexible representations and can reliably adapt to some forms of linguistic variation such as dialect. This result was consistently observed for preschool children who were speakers of AAE, who have some experience with GAE, as well as for children who speak GAE, who have very little or no experience with AAE.


Dialect familiarity and lexical processing in preschool children [BUCLD42]





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