Archive for category vocabulary
I’d mentioned last week that I was starting to learn more about codeswitching through collaborative research with Kai Greene. We have a new paper in Child Language Teaching & Therapy where we explore the use of code-mixing in children with and without language impairment. We were interested in how many kids switched to their other language during testing, if their switching was related to language dominance, and how successful they were when they did switch. Read the rest of this entry »
The short answer is yes. But, the longer answer is more interesting I think. It’s well-known that we can understand more words than we can express. Generally though, there are strong associations between receptive and expressive language, the more words you understand the more words you can express. We see normal receptive-expressive gaps in early language development, later development, as well as in mature learners. As adults, there are words that we can recognize by context in reading for example, but don’t use them expressively or don’t consistently recall them. On standardized tests however, these inherent differences between the two kinds of tasks are controlled. We can compare performance on expressive and receptive tasks through use of standardized scores often using a mean of 100 and a standard deviation of 15. Large receptive-expressive discrepancies where receptive knowledge is much stronger than expressive knowledge can be an indicator of language impairment. How does this work in bilinguals?
It’s interesting to understand bilingual language acquisition in the context of existing theories. This helps to better understand and interpret findings, and how well findings fit (or don’t) a theory helps to refine it. When there is an accumulation of findings that fit well, then we can better predict what might be going on even if there is little data.
I got into research in part because I was curious in lexical organization in bilinguals and in bilingual language impairment. Sometimes I feel like I’ve gotten distracted doing other kinds of work. So, it’s kinda fun to get back to something that I feel has gotten neglected.
How do children learn and organize their vocabulary? As children learn new words, they have to compare them with the words they already know. Words might sound the same but have different meanings (e.g., hoarse vs. horse). They also can compare words by category (e.g., chair, sofa) and function (e.g., cup, drink). These comparisons help children to make associations among words, and this helps children build their vocabulary knowledge. For bilinguals, it’s not so different, but the comparisons are made within languages and across languages. Across languages, children need to make connections among words that sound the same and have the same (e.g., velocity, velocidad) and different (e.g., contest, contestar (answer)) meanings. Bilinguals need to associate translation equivalents (e.g., dog, perro). And they need to keep word classes (e.g., nouns, verbs, adjectives) straight within each language. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve been meaning to post on a new(ish) paper we recently published in JSLHR on semantic deficits in bilingual children with language impairment. I will write about that, but what’s been on my mind is the issue of understanding children’s performance relative to their language experiences. In making diagnostic decisions about bilingual children who may have language impairment, we need to filter or interpret language performance through what it is we know about their age and experiences. For monolinguals age alone is usually a good index for linguistic experience. We expect that at certain ages, children will have had similar linguistic experiences. Thus, we can make predictions about what kinds of words, relationships among words, and number of words children should know by certain ages. For bilinguals, it’s not nearly as straightforward. Read the rest of this entry »
One of the questions that we often ask ourselves when doing bilingual research and when conducting bilingual assessment is how to describe and characterize children’s bilingualism. This question is important for making educational decisions that involve language of instruction. For assessment and diagnosis of speech and language impairment it is critical that we document children’s bilingual profiles. But, it’s not as easy as we would like. We explore some of these issues in an article that appears in Bilingualism: Language and Cognition. Read the rest of this entry »
There’s been at least two articles recently on the SAT verbal drop in scores over the last 40 years. One article notes that verbal scores are associated with communication skills, learning, and holding a job. Indeed verbal skills are important, I certainly think they are anyway, it’s the focus of my research. One of the problems that Hirsch notes in this article is that this drop is associated with changes in curriculum. Specifically, a shift from a focus on deep knowing and interacting with course content, to what he calls a “skills-based” approach to learning. I think kids need both skills and deep interaction with content (e.g., literature) that can help children build verbal skills. An important thing he notes is that verbal skills can be taught. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve been saying this for years. My colleague Mary Anne Nericcio says she’s been saying this for 30 years– I guess I’ve been saying it for about that long too! As part of our Diagnostic Markers of Language Impairment in Bilingual Children project, funded by the NIH (NIDCD) we screened some 1200 children who spanned the range from monolingual Spanish speakers to monolingual English speakers and looked to see whether children in the middle (bilinguals) were more likely to fall in the risk range more often than monolinguals. They don’t.
Is it easier to learn another language if you already know two? I’ve always suspected this was the case. First, in my own experience learning French in high school some things just seemed to come easier. I remember I used a reflexive one day and my teacher wanted to know where I had learned that since we hadn’t gotten to reflexive yet. To me, it “sounded” right. Probably because Spanish uses pretty much the same structure in this case. Of course I could have had an advantage for French learning because I knew Spanish and not because of bilingualism. But, I feel like I can throw Spanish at my bilingual friends even if their other language isn’t Spanish. I sensed that they “got it” in a way that monolinguals didn’t. So, it’s a question I’ve sometimes wondered about. Read the rest of this entry »