Language differentiation in young Spanish-English bilinguals : a pilot study


An understanding of the normal processes of second language acquisition can aid speech-language pathologists and educators working with young bilingual children. Knowledge of proper assessment practices may reduce incorrect classifications of normal bilingual children as having language disorders. The purpose of this study was to determine whether young bilingual children are able to differentiate use of their two languages and at what age they are able to show this differentiation. Specifically, can 21 to 31 month old children differentiate between their two languages of Spanish and English. Five Spanish/English bilingual children, with a negative family history for speech and language problems, were selected for this study. Data for the children were collected via a parental questionnaire, i.e., the Spanish and English versions of the MacArthur Communication Development Inventory (CDI) (1989). Parents were instructed to indicate the words their child produced spontaneously. Results indicated a wide range of responses for translation equi val en ts, total conceptual vocabulary, total vocabulary, and singlets. When a ratio of singlets to translation equivalents was calculated for Spanish, English, and combined languages, then a high percentage of translation equivalents was obtained ( i.e., 31 %, 57%, and 25%) respectively. These results support the work of Pearson, Oller, and Fernandez (1995), thus, seemingly rejecting the "contrast principle" (i.e., young children do not accept cross language synonyms). This study also validates use of the short forms of the MacArthur CDI as obtaining comparable results with the long forms. Implications for speech language pathologists and young early childhood educators are given.


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Thesis Completion





Brice, Alejandro


Bachelor of Science (B.S.)


College of Health and Public Affairs

Degree Program

Communicative Disorders


Dissertations, Academic -- Health and Public Affairs;Health and Public Affairs -- Dissertations, Academic;Bilingualism in children;Children -- Language;Language acquisition







Access Status

Open Access

Length of Campus-only Access


Document Type

Honors in the Major Thesis

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