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Lexical access in the second year: a study of monolingual and bilingual vocabulary development*


It is well established that vocabulary size is related to efficiency in auditory processing, such that children with larger vocabularies recognize words faster than children with smaller vocabularies. The present study evaluates whether this relation is specific to the language being assessed, or related to general language or cognitive processes. Speed of word processing was measured longitudinally in Spanish- and English-learning monolinguals and bilinguals at 16 and 22 months of age. Speed of processing in bilinguals was similar to monolinguals, suggesting that the number of languages to which children are exposed does not influence word recognition. Further, cross-language associations in bilinguals suggest that the dominant language supports processing in the non-dominant language. These cross-language associations are consistent with general language and cognitive efficiency accounts in which the relation between word processing and knowledge relies on experience within a language as well as on general and cognitive properties of language learning.

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Address for correspondence: Margaret Friend, 6505 Alvarado Road, Suite 101, San Diego, CA 92120
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This research was supported by NIH awards 5R01HD068458 and HD068458-02S1 to the senior author and 1F31HD081933 to the first author, and does not necessarily represent the views of the National Institutes of Health. We gratefully acknowledge all of the parents and children who have devoted their time to participate in this research.

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Bilingualism: Language and Cognition
  • ISSN: 1366-7289
  • EISSN: 1469-1841
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