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Fwd: The Developing Bilingual Lexicon

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  • Don Osborn
    This item on language development in bilingual children may be of interest. (Reposted from the Linguis list) DZO Date: 10-Dec-2004 From: Annabelle David
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 13, 2004
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      This item on language development in bilingual children may be of
      interest. (Reposted from the Linguis list) DZO

      Date: 10-Dec-2004
      From: Annabelle David <annabelle.david@...>
      Subject: The Developing Bilingual Lexicon

      Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
      Program: Department of Speech
      Dissertation Status: Completed
      Degree Date: 2004

      Author: Annabelle David

      Dissertation Title: The Developing Bilingual Lexicon

      Linguistic Field(s): Language Acquisition

      Dissertation Director(s): Wei Li

      Dissertation Abstract:

      It is often said that bilinguals are not two monolinguals in one
      person. But what does this really mean, especially in the context of
      bilingual acquisition? Despite the upsurge of case studies of
      bilingual children since the 1990's, the main central issue within
      the literature has largely remained focused on the one-vs.-two-system
      debate. Earlier studies focused on the question of whether bilingual
      children had a single/fused system or two separate/differentiated
      ones. There are a growing number of more recent studies focusing,
      instead, on the relationship between the two languages in the
      developing language system of the child.

      The study on which this thesis is based is the first longitudinal
      group study of lexical development of French-English bilingual
      children. The study aims to investigate the nature of the developing
      bilingual lexicon and its impact on the development of syntax. The
      key questions addressed in this new body of research include: are
      bilingual children developing in the same way and at the same rate as
      their monolingual peers; are there cross-linguistic influences on
      bilingual acquisition; are there features, patterns or processes
      specific to bilingual acquisition?

      We report findings from a longitudinal group study of 13 children
      between 1;4 and 3;0 who are acquiring French and English
      simultaneously within the one person - one language framework.

      The originality of this study lies in several main points. First of
      all, a larger number of children have been studied systematically
      than in traditional longitudinal studies, which are usually based on
      either cross-sectional sample or on single cases. Secondly, the
      children in this study have been systematically selected according to
      a set of sociolinguistic variables. This allows meaningful
      comparisons of the results as well as possible future replications of
      the study with even larger samples or with other language pairs.
      Furthermore, the methods used in the study are innovative in that
      both quantitative and qualitative methods have been used
      longitudinally as opposed to only longitudinal qualitative data or
      only quantitative cross-sectional data.

      The profiling of the bilingual lexicon reports that bilingual
      children's lexical categories in each language develop in a parallel
      manner whether or not the children are dominant in a language. The
      results also show that their development is very similar to
      previously reported data for monolingual children. Despite current
      theories, the evidence suggests that bilingual children produce
      translation equivalents before the 50-word stage. However, I attempt
      to bring forward the idea that cross-linguistic equivalents are
      different from synonyms within a language and so bilinguals cannot be
      compared to monolinguals in that respect. This thesis also sets the
      age of first word combinations for bilingual children to around 1;8
      while claiming that this is only achieved after each language has
      reached the 50-word milestone. Finally, great variability is noted
      throughout the thesis in terms of lexical development amongst the
      children. Some of the differences are explained by socio-linguistic
      factors such as parental strategies and language exposure. Therefore,
      the importance of accounting for such factors when studying bilingual
      language development is underlined.

      Our understanding of bilingual acquisition centrally contributes to
      our understanding of language acquisition in general. Similar
      features of bilingual and monolingual acquisition have been
      highlighted throughout this thesis. Thus, the bilingual lexicon has
      shown to develop at a similar rate and in a similar manner as the
      monolingual one despite being strongly influenced by individual socio-
      linguistic factors.

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