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In this study, monolingual (English) and bilingual (English/Spanish, English/Urdu) five- and six-year-old children completed a grammaticality judgment test in order to assess their awareness of the grammaticality of two types of syntactic constructions in English: word order and gender representation. All children were better at detecting grammatically correct and incorrect word order constructions than gender constructions, regardless of language group. In fact, bilingualism per se did not impact the results as much as receptive vocabulary range. For example, children with the highest receptive vocabulary scores were more accurate in detecting incorrect word order constructions (i.e., word order violations, semantic anomalies) and incorrect gender agreement than children in the lower receptive vocabulary ranges. However, no differences were found between the ranges for ambiguous gender constructions. These results highlight the importance of receptive vocabulary ability on syntactic awareness performance, regardless of language group.
Monolingual children identify referents uniquely in gesture before they do so with words, and parents translate these gestures into words. Children benefit from these translations, acquiring the words that their parents translated earlier than the ones that are not translated. Are bilingual children as likely as monolingual children to identify referents uniquely in gesture; and do parental translations have the same positive impact on the vocabulary development of bilingual children? Our results showed that the bilingual children – dominant in English or in Spanish – were as likely as monolingual children to identify referents uniquely in gesture. More importantly, the unique gestures, when translated into words by the parents, were as likely to enter bilingual and monolingual children's speech – independent of language dominance. Our results suggest that parental response to child gesture plays as crucial of a role in the vocabulary development of bilingual children as it does in monolingual children.
Previous research suggests that English monolingual children and adults can use speech disfluencies (e.g., uh) to predict that a speaker will name a novel object. To understand the origins of this ability, we tested 48 32-month-old children (monolingual English, monolingual French, bilingual English–French; Study 1) and 16 adults (bilingual English–French; Study 2). Our design leveraged the distinct realizations of English (uh) versus French (euh) disfluencies. In a preferential-looking paradigm, participants saw familiar–novel object pairs (e.g., doll–rel), labeled in either Fluent (“Look at the doll/rel!”), Disfluent Language-consistent (“Look at thee uh doll/rel!”), or Disfluent Language-inconsistent (“Look at thee euh doll/rel!”) sentences. All participants looked more at the novel object when hearing disfluencies, irrespective of their phonetic realization. These results suggest that listeners from different language backgrounds harness disfluencies to comprehend day-to-day speech, possibly by attending to their lengthening as a signal of speaker uncertainty. Stimuli and data are available at <https://osf.io/qn6px/>.
Previous research has shown that in a minority–majority language context, the quantity of language input at home is more important for the development of the minority language than for the development of the majority language. In the current study, we examined whether the same holds true for the frequency of specific language activities at home. In a group of five- and six-year-old Frisian–Dutch bilingual children (n = 120), we investigated to what extent vocabulary and morphology knowledge were predicted by reading activities, watching TV, and story-telling activities in both languages. The results showed that reading in Frisian predicted both Frisian vocabulary and morphology, while reading in Dutch only predicted Dutch vocabulary. This shows that reading at home is most important for the development of the minority language. This especially holds true for the acquisition of Frisian morphology, a domain that is known to be vulnerable in language acquisition.
Substantial individual differences exist in regard to type and amount of experience with variable speech resulting from foreign or regional accents. Whereas prior experience helps with processing familiar accents, research on how experience with accented speech affects processing of unfamiliar accents is inconclusive, ranging from perceptual benefits to processing disadvantages. We examined how experience with accented speech modulates mono- and bilingual children's (mean age: 9;10) ease of speech comprehension for two unfamiliar accents in German, one foreign and one regional. More experience with regional accents helped children repeat sentences correctly in the regional condition and in the standard condition. More experience with foreign accents did not help in either accent condition. The results suggest that type and amount of accent experience co-determine processing ease of accented speech.
This study examines the influence of language-internal (frequency and complexity of linguistic properties), language-external (percent French input, socioeconomic status (SES), and gender), and lexical factors (size of total and French vocabulary) on the phonological production abilities of monolingual and bilingual French-speaking children, aged 2;6. Children participated in an object and picture naming task in which they produced words selected to test different phonological properties. The bilinguals’ first languages were coded in terms of the frequency and complexity of these phonological properties. Results indicated that bilinguals who spoke languages characterized by high frequency/complexity of codas and clusters had superior results in their coda and cluster accuracy in comparison to monolinguals. Bilinguals also had better coda and cluster accuracy scores than monolinguals. These findings provide evidence for cross-linguistic interaction in combination with a ‘general bilingual effect’. In addition, percent French exposure, SES, total vocabulary, and gender influenced phonological production.
We explored the vocabulary and metaphor comprehension of learners of English as an additional language (EAL) in the first two years of UK primary school. EAL vocabulary knowledge is believed to be a crucial predictor of (reading) comprehension and educational attainment (Murphy, 2018). The vocabulary of five- to seven-year-old children with EAL was compared to that of English monolinguals (N = 80). Comprehension was assessed for both verbal (e.g., time flies) and nominal metaphors (be on cloud nine) of varying frequency. Results showed that children in year 2 (age six to seven years) had better comprehension than their younger (age five to six) peers, particularly for low-frequency metaphors. Children with EAL had weaker metaphor comprehension than their monolingual peers, particularly on a reasoning task. The results document how metaphor comprehension develops over the first critical years of schooling and indicates where learners with EAL differ from monolingual peers, thereby supporting targeted vocabulary teaching at primary schools.
Previous research in child language shows that many aspects of language acquisition are frequency-linked. This study tests whether input or usage frequency predicts the order of acquisition and accuracy of a bilingual Greek–English child's English possessives. The child was followed longitudinally from age 2;6 to 3;11. Order of acquisition was comparable to that of same-aged monolingual children. The child's usage frequency and order of acquisition were highly correlated with input frequency, while her accuracy was not. We argue that the child's already-acquired Greek possessives facilitated acquisition of English possessives, even though the child's English input and usage frequencies were lower than in monolingual English children.
A battery of standardized language tests and control measures was administered to three groups of at-risk language learners – internationally adopted children, deaf children with cochlear implants, and children with specific language impairment – and to groups of second-language learners and typically developing monolingual children. All children were acquiring French, were matched on age, gender, and socioeconomic status, and were between age 5;0 and 7;3 at the time of testing. Differences between the at-risk and not-at-risk groups were evident in all domains of language testing. The children with SLI or CIs scored significantly lower than the IA children and all three at-risk groups scored lower than the monolingual group; the L2 and IA groups scored similarly. The results suggest that children with limited access to, or ability to process, early language input are at greater risk than children with delayed input to an additional language but otherwise typical or relatively typical early input.
Previous studies on bilingual children found intact tonal development at the initial stages of interaction between Cantonese and English in successive bilingual children, whereas children exposed to both languages from birth have not been studied in this regard. We examined the production of Cantonese tones by five simultaneous bilingual children longitudinally at 2;0 and 2;6, and compared them with age-matched monolingual children using auditory analysis. Our results showed that some bilingual children had a delay at 2;0, compared to their monolingual peers. Some bilingual children also exhibited a ‘high–low’ template in their production, resembling the pitch pattern of English trochaic words. These findings suggest a possible early interaction of the Cantonese and English prosodic systems in which bilingual children adopted the English stress pattern in Cantonese production. The time-point along the trajectory of phonological development is important in modulating whether cross-linguistic transfer can be observed.
This study evaluated the development of vocabulary knowledge over the course of two academic years, beginning in preschool, in a large sample (N = 944) of language-minority children using scores from single-language vocabulary assessments and conceptual scores. Results indicated that although children began the study with higher raw scores for Spanish vocabulary knowledge than for English vocabulary knowledge, this was reversed by the end of the first year of the study. Similarly, at the beginning of the study unique Spanish vocabulary scores were larger than unique English or shared Spanish–English vocabulary scores; however, by the end of the first year of the study children's shared Spanish–English vocabulary scores were larger than unique English vocabulary scores, which were larger than unique Spanish vocabulary scores. These trends continued through the second year of the study. These results suggest that conceptual scoring is a useful assessment technique for children with limited exposure to their second language. Implications for assessment and instruction are discussed.
Rhotics, particularly the trill, are late acquired sounds in Spanish. Reports of Spanish–English bilingual preschoolers document age-appropriate articulations, but studies do not explore productions once exposure to English increases. This paper reports on the rhotic productions of a cross-sectional sample of 31 Spanish–English bilingual children, ages 6;8 to 13;5. Children produced taps with high rates of accuracy across age groups; the trill did not reach 80% target production until age 11;3, later than reported for monolingual speakers. Increased English exposure is explored as a contributing factor, arguing a need for continued study of bilingual phonological development beyond the preschool years.
This paper reports the preliminary results of a study examining the role of structural overlap, language exposure, and language use on cross-linguistic influence (CLI) in bilingual first language acquisition. We focus on the longitudinal development of determiners in a corpus of two French–English children between the ages of 2;4 and 3;7. The results display bi-directional CLI in the rate of development, i.e., accelerated development in English and a minor delay in French. Unidirectional CLI from English to French was instead observed in the significantly higher rate of ungrammatical determiner omissions in plural and generic contexts than in singular specific contexts in French. These findings suggest that other language-internal mechanisms may be at play. They also lend support to the role of expressive abilities on the magnitude of this phenomenon.
This study assessed the status of te reo Māori, the indigenous language of New Zealand, in the context of New Zealand English. From a broadly representative sample of 6327 two-year-olds (Growing Up in New Zealand), 6090 mothers (96%) reported their children understood English, and 763 mothers (12%) reported their children understood Māori. Parents completed the new MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventory short forms for te reo Māori (NZM: CDI sf) and New Zealand English (NZE: CDI sf). Mothers with higher education levels had children with larger vocabularies in both te reo Māori and NZ English. For English speakers, vocabulary advantages also existed for girls, first-borns, monolinguals, those living in areas of lower deprivation, and those whose mothers had no concerns about their speech and language. Because more than 99% of Māori speakers were bilingual, te reo Māori acquisition appears to be occurring in the context of the acquisition of New Zealand English.
The purpose of the current study was to examine effects of bilingual language input on infant word segmentation and on talker generalization. In the present study, monolingually and bilingually exposed infants were compared on their abilities to recognize familiarized words in speech and to maintain generalizable representations of familiarized words. Words were first presented in the context of sentences to infants and then presented to infants in isolation during a test phase. During test, words were produced by a talker of the same gender and by a talker of the opposite gender. Results demonstrated that both bilingual and monolingual infants were able to recognize familiarized words to a comparable degree. Moreover, both bilingual and monolingual infants recognized words in spite of talker variation. Results demonstrated robust word recognition and talker generalization in monolingual and bilingual infants at 8 months of age.
This study investigated the durational features of English word-initial /s/+stop clusters produced by bilingual Mandarin (L1)–English (L2) children and monolingual English children and adults. The participants included two groups of five- to six-year-old bilingual children: low proficiency in the L2 (Bi-low) and high proficiency in the L2 (Bi-high), one group of age-matched English children, and one group of English adults. Each participant produced a list of English words containing /sp, st, sk/ at the word-initial position followed by /a, i, u/, respectively. The absolute durations of the clusters and cluster elements and the durational proportions of elements to the overall cluster were measured. The results revealed that Bi-high children behaved similarly to the English monolinguals whereas Bi-low children used a different strategy of temporal organization to coordinate the cluster components in comparison to the English monolinguals and Bi-high children. The influence of language experience and continuing development of temporal features in children were discussed.
Preposition knowledge is important for academic success. The goal of this project was to examine how different variables such as English input and output, Spanish preposition score, mother education level, and age of English exposure (AoEE) may have played a role in children's preposition knowledge in English. 148 Spanish–English children between 7;0 and 9;11 produced prepositions in English and Spanish on a sentence repetition task from an experimental version of the Bilingual English Spanish Assessment Middle Extension (Peña, Bedore, Gutierrez-Clellen, Iglesias & Goldstein, in development). English input and output accounted for most of the variance in English preposition score. The importance of language-specific experiences in the development of prepositions is discussed. Competition for selection of appropriate prepositions in English and Spanish is discussed as potentially influencing low overall preposition scores in English and Spanish.
The aim of this study was to compare linguistic and narrative skills of monolingual and bilingual preschoolers and to estimate linguistic predictors of the macro-structural level of narratives. A battery of linguistic measures in Italian was administered to sixty-four Monolinguals and sixty-four Early Bilinguals; it included Vocabulary, Phonological Awareness, Morphosyntactic Comprehension, Phonological Memory, Letter Knowledge, and Story Sequencing tasks. The narratives produced in the Story Sequencing task were coded. Bilinguals underachieved, compared to monolinguals, in vocabulary, phonological awareness and morphosyntactic comprehension; they also differed in Type and Token indexes and in free morphology, but not in the level of macro-structural complexity. Macro-structural parameters were predicted by Mean Length of Utterances in monolinguals, but not in bilinguals. Bilingual children are able to structure stories in their L2 with monolingual-like cohesive complexity, although ‘in few words', that is, with weak L2 linguistic skills.
The present study examined the speech production of three-year-old Korean–English bilingual (KEB) children. English and Korean stops, as well as front vowels in both languages, were compared acoustically among the KEB children, then also measured against those of their age-equivalent monolingual counterparts. Evidence of distinctive phonetic categorization in bilingual children was more salient in vowels than in stops. Vowels and stops produced by the bilingual children were not significantly different from those of their monolingual counterparts. The findings suggest that, similar to other language domains, two linguistic systems are apparent in the phonetic production component of three-year-old KEB children, but that phonetic distinctiveness in production may not emerge holistically in an across-the-board fashion, appearing earlier in vowels than stops. Thus, the phonetic production systems of the two languages may develop with only limited interaction in simultaneous KEB children exposed to two languages at an early age.
In order to address gaps in the literature surrounding the acquisition of translation equivalents (TEs) in young bilinguals, two experiments were conducted. In Experiment 1, TEs were measured in the expressive vocabularies of thirty-four French–English bilinguals at 1;4, 1;10, and 2;6 using the MacArthur Bates CDI. Children's acquisition of TEs occurred gradually, with more balanced ratios of exposure and vocabulary associated with larger proportions of TEs at each wave. Experiment 2 compared a direct measure of TE comprehension with parent report of the same set of words. Results showed that parents may over-report children's TE comprehension, as our sample of two-year-old French–English bilinguals (n = 20) comprehended fewer TEs on a direct measure of receptive vocabulary than parents reported on the vocabulary checklist. The present study provides an original contribution to the literature on bilingual vocabulary development by employing both a longitudinal design and a direct measure of TE comprehension.