Incidental Word Learning Through Multiple Media: A Case for Synergy

Susan B. Neuman, Tanya Kaefer, Ashley Pinkham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Young children seem to pick up words quickly, almost effortlessly, through various media in the early years. Studies have shown that storybooks, TV, screen media, and ebooks can all be sources for incidental word learning without formal instruction. Yet, typically, research has investigated learning from a single medium in isolation or in comparison with another. In this article, we describe the potential for synergy - the combined use of multiple media platforms - and how the various symbol systems of these different media may support incidental word learning. We review recent eye-tracking studies that explore the formal features of a medium, its affordances and constraints, and suggest how multiple media might extend word-learning gains beyond those from a single medium alone. The article describes a theoretical mechanism to explain how these benefits might arise for word learning as well as implications for further research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)290-303
Number of pages14
JournalTopics in Language Disorders
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2022


  • digital media
  • early childhood
  • early literacy
  • eye-tracking
  • vocabulary
  • word learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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