Diversity of vocabulary knowledge and quantity of language exposure prior to literacy are key predictors of reading development. However, diversity and quantity of exposure are difficult to distinguish in behavioural studies, and so the causal relations with literacy are not well known. We tested these relations by training a connectionist triangle model of reading that learned to map between semantic; phonological; and, later, orthographic forms of words. The model first learned to map between phonology and semantics, where we manipulated the quantity and diversity of this preliterate language experience. Then the model learned to read. Both diversity and quantity of exposure had unique effects on reading performance, with larger effects for written word comprehension than for reading fluency. The results further showed that quantity of preliteracy language exposure was beneficial only when this was to a varied vocabulary and could be an impediment when exposed to a limited vocabulary.
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