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Talking with strangers: A study of bilingual children's communicative competence

  • Fred Genesee (a1), Isabelle Boivin (a1) and Elena Nicoladis (a1)
Abstract

An important component of the communicative competence of proficient bilinguals is the ability to use each of their languages differentially and appropriately according to relevant characteristics of the interlocutors and communicative situations. The research reported here examined the communicative competence of four young children (average age of 2;2, average MLU of 1·56) who were acquiring English and French simultaneously in the home. We observed the ways these children used their languages with monolingual strangers and with their bilingual parents. Specifically, the children's use of English-only, French-only, and mixed (English and French) utterances with the strangers during naturalistic play situations was compared with patterns of use with their parents, also during play sessions. We found that all of the children made some accommodations that could be linked to the monolingualism of the stranger; some of the children were more accommodating than others. The results are discussed in terms of young bilingual children's ability to modify their language on-line in response to the particular language characteristics of their interlocutors.

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Corresponding author
Fred Genesee, Division of Education, 2075 Academic Surge, University of California, Davis, CA 95616
References
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Applied Psycholinguistics
  • ISSN: 0142-7164
  • EISSN: 1469-1817
  • URL: /core/journals/applied-psycholinguistics
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