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How vocabulary size in two languages relates to efficiency in spoken word recognition by young Spanish–English bilinguals*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 September 2009

Stanford University
Stanford University
Stanford University
Address for correspondence: Virginia A. Marchman, Department of Psychology, Jordan Hall, Stanford University, Stanford CA 94305. e-mail:


Research using online comprehension measures with monolingual children shows that speed and accuracy of spoken word recognition are correlated with lexical development. Here we examined speech processing efficiency in relation to vocabulary development in bilingual children learning both Spanish and English (n=26 ; 2 ; 6). Between-language associations were weak: vocabulary size in Spanish was uncorrelated with vocabulary in English, and children's facility in online comprehension in Spanish was unrelated to their facility in English. Instead, efficiency of online processing in one language was significantly related to vocabulary size in that language, after controlling for processing speed and vocabulary size in the other language. These links between efficiency of lexical access and vocabulary knowledge in bilinguals parallel those previously reported for Spanish and English monolinguals, suggesting that children's ability to abstract information from the input in building a working lexicon relates fundamentally to mechanisms underlying the construction of language.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2009

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We are grateful to the children and parents who participated in this research, and to the staff of the Ravenswood Clinic, the East Palo Alto Library, East Palo Alto Head Start, and Family Connections of San Mateo County. Special thanks to Theres Grüter, Adriana Weisleder, Lucía Rodríguez Mata, Ana Luz Portillo, Amber MacMillan, Renate Zangl, Nati Rodríguez, Guadalupe Makasyuk, Julissa Collado, Rebecca Wedel, Gladys Ayora, Kimberly Rodríguez, Marcela Hernández, Ana María Sanchez, Yessica Hernández, Sara Hernández, Daisy Ríos and the staff of the Center for Infant Studies at Stanford University. This work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health to Anne Fernald (HD 42235, DC 008838) with a Postdoctoral Research Supplement for Underrepresented Minorities to Nereyda Hurtado.



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