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Asymmetries in phonological development: the case of word-final cluster acquisition in Welsh–English bilingual children*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 February 2014

Cardiff Metropolitan University
Cardiff Metropolitan University
Cardiff Metropolitan University
Address for correspondence: Centre for Speech and Language Therapy, Cardiff Metropolitan University, Llandaff Campus, Western Avenue, Cardiff CF5 2YB, United Kingdom. e-mail:


This study provides the first systematic account of word-final cluster acquisition in bilingual children. To this end, forty Welsh–English bilingual children differing in language dominance and age (2;6 to 5;0) participated in a picture-naming task in English and Welsh. The results revealed significant age and dominance effects on cluster acquisition, with greater overall accuracy on the English clusters. Interestingly, although the Welsh-dominant children outperformed the English-dominant ones on the Welsh clusters, they did not exhibit a concomitant lag on the English clusters. It is argued that this asymmetry is a direct reflection of the sociolinguistic situation in Wales with English as the majority language and Welsh the minority language. The study also revealed accelerated rates of acquisition for English clusters compared with age-matched monolinguals reported elsewhere (Templin, 1957), thereby supporting claims that bilingual contexts may have a facilitative effect on phonological acquisition (Goldstein & Bunta, 2012; Grech & Dodd, 2008).

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

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We would like to thank Helen Pandeli, Darren Walker, and three anonymous reviewers for comments on an earlier draft of this paper. Any shortcomings are, of course, the sole responsibility of the authors. Thanks also go to the children who participated in the research.



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