15.3486, Diss: Language Acquisition: David: 'The Developing...'

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LINGUIST List: Vol-15-3486. Mon Dec 13 2004. ISSN: 1068 - 4875.

Subject: 15.3486, Diss: Language Acquisition: David: 'The Developing...'

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Date: 10-Dec-2004
From: Annabelle David < annabelle.david at ncl.ac.uk >
Subject: The Developing Bilingual Lexicon

-------------------------Message 1 ----------------------------------
Date: Mon, 13 Dec 2004 23:26:20
From: Annabelle David < annabelle.david at ncl.ac.uk >
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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