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The relationship between first and second language in early vocabulary acquisition in bilingual children is still debated in the literature. This study compared the expressive vocabulary of 39 equivalently low-SES two-year-old bilingual children from immigrant families with different heritage languages (Romanian vs. Nigerian English) and the same majority language (Italian). Vocabulary size, vocabulary composition and translation equivalents (TEs) were assessed using the Italian/L1 versions of the CDI. Higher vocabulary in Italian than in the heritage language emerged in both groups. Moreover, Romanian-Italian-speaking children produced higher proportions of TEs than Nigerian English-Italian-speaking children, suggesting that L1-L2 phonological similarity facilitates the acquisition of cross-linguistic synonyms.
Previous studies have demonstrated an effect of early vocal production on infants’ speech processing and later vocabulary. This study focuses on the relationship between vocal production and new word learning. Thirty monolingual Italian-learning infants were recorded at about 11 months, to establish the extent of their consonant production. In parallel, the infants were trained on novel word–object pairs, two consisting of early learned consonants (ELC), two consisting of late learned consonants (LLC). Word learning was assessed through Preferential Looking. The results suggest that vocal production supports word learning: Only children with higher, consistent consonant production attended more to the trained ELC images.
This study examined (a) the relationship between gesture and speech produced by children with specific language impairment (SLI) and typically developing (TD) children, and their mothers, during shared book-reading, and (b) the potential effectiveness of gestures accompanying maternal speech on the conversational responsiveness of children. Fifteen preschoolers with expressive SLI were compared with fifteen age-matched and fifteen language-matched TD children. Child and maternal utterances were coded for modality, gesture type, gesture–speech informational relationship, and communicative function. Relative to TD peers, children with SLI used more bimodal utterances and gestures adding unique information to co-occurring speech. Some differences were mirrored in maternal communication. Sequential analysis revealed that only in the SLI group maternal reading accompanied by gestures was significantly followed by child's initiatives, and when maternal non-informative repairs were accompanied by gestures, they were more likely to elicit adequate answers from children. These findings support the ‘gesture advantage’ hypothesis in children with SLI, and have implications for educational and clinical practice.
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