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What can bilingual children tell us about the developmental relationship between vocabulary and grammar?

Valentini, A. and Serratrice, L. (2021) What can bilingual children tell us about the developmental relationship between vocabulary and grammar? Cognitive Science. ISSN 0364-0213 (In Press)

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Abstract/Summary

Strong correlations between vocabulary and grammar are well attested in language development in monolingual and bilingual children. What is less clear is whether there is any directionality in the relationship between the two constructs, whether it is predictive over time, and the extent to which it is affected by language input. In the present study we analysed data from 100 bilingual children with English as an additional language who were tested on measures of vocabulary breadth and depth, morphology, and syntax at three time points at 6-month intervals from the age of 5;8. We used bivariate growth models to test the directionality of the relationship between vocabulary breadth and depth, and measures of morphology and syntax; testing bilingual children allowed us to use measures of English input as covariates in the analyses. All the models showed a correlation between vocabulary and grammar, but no correlation between their growth slopes, suggesting that vocabulary and grammar grow independently. Three of the four bivariate models showed a significant correlation between the intercept of grammar skills and the slope of vocabulary growth. Length of exposure to English predicted the intercept of vocabulary breadth and grammar, suggesting that children exposed to English earlier had larger vocabularies and better morpho-syntactic skills. Current English input predicted the intercept of both measures of vocabulary as well as the slope for vocabulary depth, the only measure for which there was a significant relationship between intercept and slope, suggesting a Matthew effect for this dimension of vocabulary.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Interdisciplinary Research Centres (IDRCs) > Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism (CeLM)
Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Clinical Language Sciences
ID Code:100685
Publisher:Wiley

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