Diversifying our understanding of children’s word learning

ORCID_LOGO based on reviews by Maxine Schaefer and 1 anonymous reviewer
A recommendation of:

Reading and vocabulary knowledge in English-Meetei Mayek biliterates


Submission: posted 15 April 2023
Recommendation: posted 20 March 2024, validated 25 March 2024
Cite this recommendation as:
Syed, M. (2024) Diversifying our understanding of children’s word learning. Peer Community in Registered Reports, .


The positive relation between word reading and children’s vocabulary development has been extensively documented. That said, like most research in psychology and the behavioral sciences, the available evidence comes predominantly from majority populations. In the context of language learning, that means monolingual speakers or multilingual speakers where there is close alignment between home and school language learning. But what does the relation between word learning and vocabulary knowledge look like when the learning contexts are discordant?
In the current study, Pamei et al. (2024) propose to examine this question by investigating word learning and vocabulary development in two languages, English and Meetei Mayek, among a sample of Grade 3 (approximate age 10), students in Manipur, India. In this context, formal literacy education begins in English rather than in students’ regional home language of Meetei Mayek. This fact provides an innovative context in which to understand how a) whether the relation between word reading and vocabulary looks different in the two languages, and b) whether there is linguistic interdependence between learning in the two languages. This study is poised to bring important underrepresented data that goes beyond the dominant contexts from which our knowledge of language learning has been generated, and thus has the potential to contribute to new lines of empirical and theoretical work that is inclusive of global variations. 
The Stage 1 manuscript was evaluated over three rounds of in-depth peer review, the first two consisting of substantial comments from two scholars with relevant expertise, and the third consisting of a close review by the recommender. Based on detailed responses to the reviewers' comments, the recommender judged that the manuscript met the Stage 1 criteria and therefore awarded in-principle acceptance (IPA).
URL to the preregistered Stage 1 protocol:
Level of bias control achieved: Level 6. No part of the data or evidence that will be used to answer the research question yet exists and no part will be generated until after IPA.
List of eligible PCI RR-friendly journals:
1. Pamei, G., McBride, C. & Inoue, T. (2024). Reading and vocabulary knowledge in English-Meetei Mayek biliterates. In principle acceptance of Version 3 by Peer Community in Registered Reports.
Conflict of interest:
The recommender in charge of the evaluation of the article and the reviewers declared that they have no conflict of interest (as defined in the code of conduct of PCI) with the authors or with the content of the article.

Evaluation round #2

DOI or URL of the report:

Version of the report: 1

Author's Reply, 18 Mar 2024

Decision by ORCID_LOGO, posted 19 Feb 2024, validated 19 Feb 2024

February 19, 2024

Dear Authors,

Thank you for submitting your revised Stage 1 manuscript, “Reading and vocabulary knowledge in English-Meetei Mayek biliterates” to PCI RR.

I have now received comments from the two reviewers who commented on your initial submission, and I have also read the proposal carefully myself. We all believe that the revised version is much stronger and clearer, with only a few small issues remaining—see reviewer comments for details.

I will handle the revised version myself rather than sending it back to the reviewers, and I will do so as quickly as possible upon submission. My expectation is that I will be able to issue an in principle acceptance at that time so that you can get started with your research.

Thank you for submitting your work to PCI RR, and I look forward to receiving your revised manuscript.

Moin Syed

PCI RR Recommender

Reviewed by ORCID_LOGO, 11 Feb 2024

Peer review of Stage 1 Revised Manuscript

Reading and vocabulary knowledge in English-Meetei Mayek biliterates

The revised Stage 1 manuscript is now titled Reading and vocabulary knowledge in English-Meetei Mayek biliterates which more accurately describes the study. The research study aims to answer two research questions: 1) Are the relationships among measures of word reading and vocabulary knowledge similar or different in English and Meetei Mayek? 2) Is there linguistic interdependence (English to Meetei Mayek) in word reading and vocabulary knowledge?

I commend the authors on the clarity of the revised stage 1 report, and for the detailed feedback on the reviewers’ comments. All my comments raised in the initial review have now been addressed and I am satisfied to support this stage 1 report. 

The literature review has been revised for clarity and new sources have been added that provide more context to the research problem. The research questions clearly follow from the presentation of the literature, and the proposed analytic choices can address the questions. The analytic choices are clearly defined, which enables replication of the choices made. The authors have also specified how they would interpret different results I relation to their hypotheses.

The sample size for each analysis is sufficient to provide informative results, based on their SESOI and associated power analyses. I was able to reproduce the power analyses. When replicating in R, I did get some warning messages that some functions in TOSTER had been deprecated and replaced with new function names. Nevertheless, I found the same results as included in the report. 

The pilot results and analysis of piloted instruments is presented in detail in the supplementary material. The results therein demonstrate that the authors have created valid and reliable instruments that can be used in the present study to answer the research questions. 

The authors have sufficiently addressed how they will check data quality, deal with missing data, and sensitivity analyses. The proposed study seems to be undertaken in line with ethical standards in the field, with ethical clearance from the university, and consent obtained from school, class teacher and students. The authors have also considered the political scenario and reduced the time requirements related to participating in the study. 

I am very much looking forward to the results of this research. The research will add to our understanding of reading development for multilingual readers in underexplored contexts. 

Reviewed by anonymous reviewer 1, 02 Feb 2024

First of all, let me say that I am sorry to hear that your research has been impacted by the current political situation. Second, I found the manuscript much improved (and I like the new title), but still have some suggestions for improvement. 


-          At several points in the manuscript, it is stated that you will be recruiting children in Grades 3 and 4 (e.g., abstract, section at the end of the instruction), but in your response to reviewers, you stated that you decided to concentrate on Grade 3. Assuming the latter information is correct, please edit the manuscript to match your intended sampling.

-          Thank you for the changes that you made to the introduction; I found it much clearer.

-          Can you motivate better in the manuscript, why you decided to use three different measures for word reading? There are two timed measures (one for words, one for nonwords) for each language. In addition, there is also the untimed measure. Can you make clearer what the untimed measure is adding?

-          As I understand it, the only exclusion criterion is that participants have more than 30% missing data. Are there really no other exclusion criteria (e.g., uncorrected vision or hearing issues, diagnosed neurological difficulties)? 

-          Can you explain the averaging of the scores more? In one of the vocabulary tests, the maximum score is 17, in the other one it is 30. By simply taking the average of these two numbers, you would essentially give more weight to the test with the higher maximum number, correct? Or are you standardizing the scores first and then averaging them? Please elaborate.

-          For hypothesis 2, will Bayesian analyses only be run in case there is a null effect in the frequentist analyses or will they be run regardless? If the latter the case, one possibility could be to only use Bayesian analyses to start with for interpretation.

-          I am not familiar with some of the R packages that are being suggested for supplementary analyses (e.g., sensemakr) – would it be possible to include more detail as to what they are doing (given that, to my knowledge, these are not standard approaches)?


Minor comments:

-          “For the child population whose main literacy input is through school books, word reading and vocabulary development across ages (Newman et al., 2016) might be different from those living in a rich literacy resources environment, particularly when formal schooling does not begin in the first language (L1) but instead in a second language (L2) or even the third, and oral exposure to the dominant literacy language does not precede that of the written language.” This is a very long sentence, please split it in two for readability.

-          Incomplete sentence: “For English, N = 267 (< 354) and for Meetei Mayek, N = 1078 (> 354)”

-          “As explicitly stated in the DAGs” – what does this abbreviation stand for? It is not used anywhere else in the manuscript.

Evaluation round #1

DOI or URL of the report:

Version of the report: 1

Author's Reply, 17 Jan 2024

Decision by ORCID_LOGO, posted 12 Jun 2023, validated 12 Jun 2023

June 12, 2023

Dear Authors,

Thank you for submitting your Stage 1 manuscript, “Reading two languages simultaneously” to PCI RR.

The reviewers and I were all in agreement that you are pursuing an important project, but that the Stage 1 manuscript would benefit from some revisions. Accordingly, I am asking that you revise and resubmit your Stage 1 proposal for further evaluation.

The reviewers provided thoughtful, detailed comments that are remarkably consistent and align with my own read of the proposal, so I urge you to pay close attention to them as you prepare your revision. In general, the reviewers highlight a lack of detail in the rationale for the hypotheses, method, and analysis. You should attend to all of these issues very closely, seeking to provide as much detail as possible in the revision.

It is particularly important that you clarify the specific wording of the hypotheses, provide sufficient rationale for them, and be as precise as possible in how they will be tested. As the reviewers note, there are some inconsistencies in how the hypotheses are formulated in relation to the proposed tests. These issues have implications for your power analysis—powering to detect a large correlation is quite different from powering to detect a difference between two correlations. Similarly, in the multiple regression analyses you are not examining individual bivariate relations but incremental ones beyond controls, which are likely to have smaller effect sizes. It is critical that the power analysis be based on the best available information to determine a sample size that will lead to informative results.

When submitting a revision, please provide a cover letter detailing how you have addressed the reviewers’ points.

Thank you for submitting your work to PCI RR, and I look forward to receiving your revised manuscript.

Moin Syed

PCI RR Recommender

Reviewed by ORCID_LOGO, 12 Jun 2023

Reviewed by anonymous reviewer 1, 07 Jun 2023

Review Stage 1:

Reading Two Languages Simultaneously: The Role of Academic Book Language


Thank you for the opportunity to review this manuscript. I believe the article addresses interesting research questions, but is sometimes hard to follow and is missing methodological and statistical detail. I hope the authors find my comments helpful.



After reading the manuscript, I am not sure the title relates to the questions actually addressed that well. I believe something along the lines of “The relationship between reading and vocabulary knowledge in English-Meetei Mayek biliterates” would be more appropriate. Based on the title, I would expect that participants are literally reading two languages at the same time or that academic book language is more investigated specifically.


The abstract in its current form does not provide enough information on the study. You may want to add information to address the following questions:

-          How many children will be recruited? What is their age (grade is not informative enough because ages per grade differ across countries)?

-          Please introduce the linguistic interdependence hypothesis earlier. What does this hypothesis predict? 



Overall, I had sometimes trouble following the arguments that were made in the introduction (especially in the beginning). A lot of different hypotheses were introduced without really elaborating how they related to each other (when talking about the relationship between reading and vocabulary acquisition). I imagine that some of this may be personal preference, but I do suggest editing the introduction to be clearer. Most of my comments below are about specific sentences that I had trouble understanding, but there are two more substantial comments about Research Questions 1 and 2 at the end (I made these cursive, so that they would be easier to spot).

Detailed comments:

-          P.5: I am not sure I agree with this sentence “Lexical diversity and quality in books are higher than in oral exposure (Hsiao & Nation, 2018; Montag & MacDonald, 2015).” Yes, written language tends to be more diverse and more complex (e.g., more use of passives) – but does that mean it’s “higher quality”? To me, they are just different/serve different purposes but are not necessarily better than one or the other.

-          P.5: I am not sure what this sentence means “With school books as the main input system, word reading and vocabulary development across age (Newman et al., 2016) is relatively less examined.” Do you mean that children mainly read school books (is this true? I guess it may be true for English in this population?)? Word reading and vocabulary development is examined less than what?

-          P.5: I had a hard time following this sentence too: “For children whose literacy and schooling experiences do not necessarily follow the first language (L1) and second language (L2) chronology in the order of oral preceding written language, how are meanings derived out of word reading or vice versa?” The phrase “chronology in the order of oral preceding written language” does not work for me (I do not understand it).

-          P.5: I also have trouble with this section: “The major merit of this hypothesis is that it allows testing of the distinction between reading experience from general language experience (Nation, 2017) for multifaceted word knowledge. Moreover, with orthographic transparency as the driver of division of cognitive labour, the influential triangle model of reading (Harm & Seidenberg, 2004) formalises the effects of both phonological and semantic pathways on reading acquisition (Monaghan, 2023)”. I do not understand the jump from the lexical quality hypothesis to the triangle model. Please unpack these ideas more, so that it is easier to follow.

-          P. 6: “With increase in experiences of schooling” = with more schooling?

-          P. 8: “Vocabulary threshold in L2 students is the minimal word knowledge they need for reading academic texts (Laufer & Ravenhorst-Kalovski, 2010). Broadly, it corresponds to vocabulary breadth (Grabe, 2004).” I do not understand what is meant by vocabulary threshold – does that mean that children need to know a certain number of L2 words to be able to read academic texts?

-          P. 8: “Given this premise, for years of schooling to yield more word acquisition, a prerequisite is constructing new concepts corresponding to new labels. The existing knowledge base of words in L1 (Jimenez & Hills, 2022) might act as the elicitors, if not the causes, of new words meaning in another language.” I had to read this more than once to understand, but I think it just means that word learning in a L2 will be easier if they correspond to existing L1 words (instead of completely novel concepts). Please edit the sentences for readability. 

-          P. 11: “Meetei mayek has 27 alphabets (Mapung Eeyek) serving as the main set” à Meetei mayek has 27 alphabets with Mapung Eeyek serving as the main set?

-          P. 12: “We expect that since the latter has a transparent orthography, children would learn to read it relatively easier than English. Therefore, it is possible that vocabulary knowledge in Meetei mayek would be less dependent on word reading because compared to English, most children would have basic exposure to the Meetei language in their everyday environment beyond the setting of formal schooling.” This section confounds transparency of the language with how language is being experienced. If I understand correctly, the idea is that for denser orthographies, the relationship between word reading and vocabulary should be reduced. But here, this does not apply because orthography denseness is confounded with when children actually see words? I.e. if you find that relationship we don’t know whether it’s because of the denseness or whether it’s simply because these children rarely read the other language (that is you may find these differences even if differences in denseness would not exist).

-          P. 12: Research Question 2 – how can you exclude the possibility of a third factor (beyond the three control variables age, phonological processing and IQ) contributing positively to both English reading/word knowledge and Meetei Mayek reading/word knowledge?

-          The acronyms LL1 and 1LL are both used – please be consistent.

-          The linguistic interdependence hypothesis as a term is first introduced in the research questions at the end of the introduction (besides the abstract). Given this is a central aspect of the manuscript, it should be probably introduced earlier and in more detail. 



-          What are the approximate ages in year 3 and 4? This feels like it could be very language and culture dependent. 

-          How will the written consent look like for the children?

-          Can you say a bit more about the Meetei Mayek adaptations of the standardized tests? Were these developed for this project and/or have they been used before?

-          Will vocabulary knowledge (breadth/depth) be tested in both languages? If so, how?

-          Please be more specific about data exclusion criteria. Is the number 70% calculated across all data or for each task separately? Are there any other factors that may lead to a participants’ data being excluded?



-          P. 17: “Outliers will be defined based on the standard deviation, most likely in the common range of 3 SD above or below the mean.” This should be decided in advance.

-          P. 18: “For all the analyses, graphical representations of the correlations highlighting the confidence and credible intervals.” Incomplete sentence

-          Please be specific about which variables will be entered into the regression models for Research Question 2. For example, word reading is assessed with three subtests; how are these entered? Are they combined into one value?

-          What are the Bayesian analyses adding to Research Question 1? 

-          For Research Question 1, I am not getting a clear sense for what exact correlational patterns would be evidence of meaningful differences between English and Meetei Mayek. Likely, there will be some differences across the languages. How do we know which ones are meaningful or how many differences (specific ones?) need to exist for them to be meaningful?



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