Developmental Lexicon Project (DeveL)

The Developmental Lexicon (DeveL) Project is a cross-sectional study that investigates how visual word recognition changes across the lifespan and how this is impacted by linguistic characteristics.

Current models of written language acquisition suppose that in orthographically transparent languages (like German) children initially decode words sequentially – i.e. letter by letter –, but later access them on the basis of larger linguistic units (such as graphemes, syllables, or morphemes). However, none of the current cognitive theories on the process of reading includes a developmental trajectory. The aim of the DeveL project is to close this gap by providing first data on word recognition in German for the same words across the lifespan. For this purpose, 1152 words were selected according to specific linguistic characteristics (e.g. their length or the frequency with which they occur in the German language), whose latency and accuracy scores allow to draw conclusions on relevant theories of written language acquisition.

In 2013, 430 students from grades 2, 4 and 6 took part in computerized single sessions. Simultaneously, 40 younger (20-30 years) and 40 older adults (65-75 years) were assessed. All participants completed a lexical decision and a naming task – two commonly employed paradigms in psycholinguistic research to assess lexical processing (see methods). To further investigate the impact of inter-individual differences, a number of different reader variables was also assessed. The study’s central questions are 1) which linguistic features effect German word recognition, 2) how their influence changes with age, and 3) whether these developmental patterns vary with inter-individual differences.

Findings will provide further knowledge on reading development in German and help to expand existing theories of visual word recognition. Once the data is in suitable form, it will be made available to the scientific community through this website. That way, future research can be conducted internationally by means of virtual experiments.


Pauline Schroeter is testing the reading abilities of a boy
© MPI fuer Bildungsforschung


For questions or comments concerning DeveL please contact

Sascha Schroeder

sascha [dot] schroeder [at] mpib-berlin [dot] mpg [dot] de