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The measure matters: Language dominance profiles across measures in Spanish–English bilingual children*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 March 2012

The University of Texas at Austin
The University of Texas at Austin
The University of Texas El Paso
The University of Texas at Austin
Texas State University San Marcos
The University of Texas at Austin
The University of Texas at Austin
Utah State University
Address for correspondence: Lisa M. Bedore, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, 1 University Station A1100, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, 512-232-5101,


The purpose of this study was to determine if different language measures resulted in the same classifications of language dominance and proficiency for a group of bilingual pre-kindergarteners and kindergarteners. Data were analyzed for 1029 Spanish–English bilingual pre-kindergarteners who spanned the full range of bilingual language proficiency. Parent questionnaires were used to quantify age of first exposure and current language use. Scores from a short test of semantic and morphosyntactic development in Spanish and English were used to quantify children's performance. Some children who were in the functionally monolingual range based on interview data demonstrated minimal knowledge of their other languages when tested. Current use accounted for more of the variance in language dominance than did age of first exposure. Results indicate that at different levels of language exposure children differed in their performance on semantic and morphosyntax tasks. These patterns suggest that it may be difficult to compare the results of studies that employ different measures of language dominance and proficiency. Current use is likely to be a useful metric of bilingual development that can be used to build a comprehensive picture of child bilingualism.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012

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This work was supported by the grant 1 R01 DC007439-01 from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). We thank Dr. Li and the three anonymous reviewers for their comments on this manuscript. We are grateful to the families that participated in the study. We would also like to thank Anita Méndez Pérez and Chad Bingham for their assistance with coordination of data collection, the interviewers for their assistance with collecting the data for this project, and the school districts for allowing us access to collect the data. This report does not necessarily reflect the views or policy of NIDCD.


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