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Bilingual parents' modeling of pragmatic language use in multiparty interactions

  • MEDHA TARE (a1) and SUSAN A. GELMAN (a2)


Parental input represents an important source of language socialization. Particularly in bilingual contexts, parents may model pragmatic language use and metalinguistic strategies to highlight language differences. The present study examines multiparty interactions involving 28 bilingual English- and Marathi-speaking parent–child pairs in the presence of monolingual bystanders (children's mean ages = 3 years, 2 months and 4 years, 6 months). Their language use was analyzed during three sessions: parent and child alone, parent and child with the English speaker, and parent and child with the Marathi speaker. Parents demonstrated pragmatic differentiation by using relatively more of the bystander's language; however, children did not show this sensitivity. Further, parents used a variety of strategies to discuss language differences, such as providing and requesting translations; children translated most often in response to explicit requests. The results indicate that parents model pragmatic language differentiation as well as metalinguistic talk that may contribute to children's metalinguistic awareness.


Corresponding author

ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE Medha Tare, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia, P.O. Box 400400, Charlottesville, VA 22904. E-mail:


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Applied Psycholinguistics
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