Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Acceleration in the bilingual acquisition of phonological structure: Evidence from Polish–English bilingual children*


This study examines the production of consonant clusters in simultaneous Polish–English bilingual children and in language-matched English monolinguals (aged 7;01–8;11). Selection of the language pair was based on the fact that Polish allows a greater range of consonant clusters than English. A nonword repetition task was devised in order to examine clusters of different types (obstruent-liquid vs. s + obstruent) and in different word positions (initial vs. medial), two factors that play a significant role in repetition accuracy in monolingual acquisition (e.g., Kirk & Demuth, 2005). Our findings show that bilingual children outperformed monolingual controls in the word initial s + obstruent condition. These results indicate that exposure to complex word initial clusters (in Polish) can accelerate the development of less phonologically complex clusters (in English). This constitutes significant new evidence that the facilitatory effects of bilingual acquisition extend to structural phonological domains. The implications that these results have on competing views of phonological organisation and phonological complexity are also discussed.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Dr Marco Tamburelli, School of Linguistics and English Language, Bangor University, Bangor, Gwynedd LL57
Hide All

The authors would like to thank Paul Boersma, Stuart Davis and the audience of the 20th Manchester Phonology Meeting for useful comments on an earlier draft of this paper. We would also like to thank Mike Hammond for his guidance on various issues pertaining to English consonants, and the editor and three anonymous reviewers for their detailed comments and suggestions. Our deepest gratitude to all the staff and pupils at St. Margaret Clitherow, Carrington Primary and Woodland House School for making this research possible.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

K. Abbot-Smith , & M. Tomasello (2006). Exemplar-learning and schematization in a usage-based account of syntactic acquisition. The linguistic review, 23 (3), 275290.

P. C. Amrhein (1999). On the functional equivalence of monolinguals and bilinguals in “monolingual mode”: The bilingual anticipation effect in picture-word processing. Psychological Science, 10 (3), 230236.

I. Berent , D. Steriade , T. Lennertz , & V. Vaknin (2007). What we know about what we have never heard: Evidence from perceptual illusions. Cognition, 104, 591630.

S. Bertolo (Ed.). (2001). Language acquisition and learnability. Cambridge University Press.

L. Burzio (1994). Principles of English stress (Vol. 72). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

J. Bybee (1985). Morphology: A study of the relation between meaning and form (Vol. 9). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

J. A. Coady & J. L. Evans (2008). The uses and interpretations of nonword repetition tasks in children with and without specific language impairments. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders 43, 140.

E. Cyran , & E. Gussmann (1999). Consonant clusters and governing relations: Polish initial consonant sequences. In H. van der Hulst , & N. Ritter (Eds.) The syllable: views and facts (Vol. 45). Berlin: de Walter Gruyter.

L. Davidson (2006). Phonology, phonetics, or frequency: Influences on the production of non-native sequences. Journal of Phonetics, 34 (1), 104137.

S. Davis (1990). Italian onset structure and the distribution of il and lo. Linguistics, 28, 4355.

S. Döpke (1999). Cross-linguistic influences on the placement of negation and modal particles in simultaneous bilingualism. Language Sciences, 21, 143175.

K. D. Ebert , J. Kalanek , K. N. Cordero , & K. Kohnert (2008). Spanish Nonword Repetition Stimuli Development and Preliminary Results. Communication Disorders Quarterly, 29 (2), 6774.

L. Fabiano-Smith , & J. A. Barlow (2010). Interaction in bilingual phonological acquisition: Evidence from phonetic inventories. International journal of bilingual education and bilingualism, 13, 8197.

L. Fabiano-Smith , & B. A. Goldstein (2010). Phonological acquisition in bilingual Spanish–English speaking children. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 53 (1), 160178.

S. A. Frisch , N. R. Large , & D. B. Pisoni (2000). Perception of wordlikeness: Effects of segment probability and length on the processing of nonwords. Journal of Memory and Language, 42, 481496.

S. A. Frisch , N. R. Large , B. Zawaydeh , & D. B. Pisoni (2001). Emergent phonotactic generalizations in English and Arabic. Typological studies in Language, 45, 159180.

S. E. Gathercole (2006). Nonword repetition and word learning: The nature of the relationship. Applied Psycholinguistics 27, 513–43.

J. A. Gierut (2007). Phonological complexity and language learnability. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 16 (1), 617.

B. Goldstein , & P. S. Washington (2001). An initial investigation of phonological patterns in typically developing 4-year-old Spanish–English bilingual children. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 32, 153164.

R. L. Gómez , & L. Gerken (2000). Infant artificial language learning and language acquisition. Trends in cognitive sciences, 4 (5), 178186.

F. Grosjean (1989). Neurolinguists, beware! The bilingual is not two monolinguals in one person. Brain and language, 36, 315.

A. Hulk , & N. Müller (2000). Bilingual first language acquisition at the interface between syntax and pragmatics. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 3, 227244.

G. Jones , M. Tamburelli , S. E. Watson , F. Gobet , & J. M. Pine (2010). Lexicality and frequency in specific language impairment: Accuracy and error data from two nonword repetition tests. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 53 (6), 16421655.

M. Kehoe (2002). Developing vowel systems as a window to bilingual phonology. International Journal of Bilingualism, 6, 315334.

G. Krajewski , A. L. Theakston , E. V. Lieven , & M. Tomasello (2011). How Polish children switch from one case to another when using novel nouns: Challenges for models of inflectional morphology. Language and Cognitive Processes, 26, 830861.

T. Kupisch (2005). Acceleration in bilingual first language acquisition. In T. Gaerts & H. Jacobs (eds.), Romance languages and linguistic theory 2003: selected papers from ‘Going Romance’ 2003, 143–60. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

C. Lleó (2002). The role of Markedness in the Acquisition of Complex Prosodic Structures by German–Spanish Bilinguals. International Journal of Bilingualism, 6 (3), 291313.

C. Lleó , I. Kuchenbrandt , M. Kehoe , & C. Trujillo (2003). Syllable final consonants in Spanish and German monolingual and bilingual acquisition. In N. Müller (ed.), (In)vulnerable domains in multilingualism, pp. 191220. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

R. Major (1996). Markedness in second language acquisition of consonant clusters. In D. R. Preston & R. Bayley (eds.), Variation and second language acquisition, 7596.

J. Masterson , M. Stuart , M. Dixon , & S. Lovejoy (2010). Children's printed word database: continuities and changes over time in children's early reading vocabulary. British Journal of Psychology, 101, 221242.

I. Mazurkewich (1984). The acquisition of the dative alternation by second language learners and linguistic theory. Language learning, 34, 91108.

F. Meunier , & C. Gouverneur (2009). New types of corpora for new educational challenges. Corpora and language teaching, 179201

J. A. Mompeán-González (2004). Category overlap and neutralization: The importance of speakers’ classifications in phonology. Cognitive Linguistics, 15 (4), 429469.

N. Müller , & A. Hulk (2001). Crosslinguistic influence in bilingual language acquisition: Italian and French as recipient languages. Bilingualism: Language and cognition, 4, 121.

J. B. Oetting , & M. L. Rice (1993). Plural acquisition in children with specific language impairment. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 36 (6), 1236.

T. Rinker , G. Kohls , C. Richter , V. Maas , E. Schulz , & M. Schecker (2007). Abnormal frequency discrimination in children with SLI as indexed by mismatch negativity (MMN). Neuroscience letters, 413 (2), 99104.

J. N. Rouder , & R. Ratcliff (2006). Comparing exemplar-and rule-based theories of categorization. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 15 (1), 913.

E. Sanoudaki (2010). Towards a Typology of Word-initial Consonant Clusters: Evidence from the Acquisition of Greek. Journal of Greek Linguistics, 10, 74114.

L. Serratrice (2007). Cross-linguistic influence in the interpretation of anaphoric and cataphoric pronouns in English–Italian bilingual children. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 10, 225238.

A. B. Smit (1993). Phonologic error distributions in the Iowa-Nebraska articulation norms project: word-initial consonant clusters. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 36, 931947.

A. B. Smit , L. Hand , J. J. Freilinger , J. E. Bernthal , & A. Bird (1990). The Iowa articulation norms project and its Nebraska replication. Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders, 55, 779798.

C. Soares , & F. Grosjean (1984). Bilinguals in a monolingual and a bilingual speech mode: The effect on lexical access. Memory & cognition, 12, 380386.

A. Sorace , L. Serratrice , F. Filiaci , & M. Baldo (2009). Discourse conditions on subject pronoun realization: Testing the linguistic intuitions of older bilingual children. Lingua, 119, 460477.

M. Tamburelli , & G. Jones (2013). Investigating the Relationship Between Nonword Repetition Performance and Syllabic Structure in Typical and Atypical Language Development. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 56 (2), 708720.

M. S. Vitevitch , & P. A. Luce (1998). When words compete: Levels of processing in perception of spoken words. Psychological Science, 9, 325329.

R. Wright (2004). A review of perceptual cues and robustness. In D. Steriade , R. Kirchner , & B. Hayes (eds.), Phonetically based phonology, pp. 3457. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

M. Yavas , & J. A. Barlow (2006). Acquisition of# sC clusters in Spanish–English bilingual children. Journal of Multilingual Communication Disorders, 4, 182193.

P. Zydorowicz (2010). Consonant Clusters Across Morpheme Boundaries: Polish Morphonotactic Inventory and its Acquisition. Poznań Studies in Contemporary Linguistics 46, 565588.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Bilingualism: Language and Cognition
  • ISSN: 1366-7289
  • EISSN: 1469-1841
  • URL: /core/journals/bilingualism-language-and-cognition
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 7
Total number of PDF views: 98 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 581 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 26th June 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.