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Language choice in the earliest utterances: a case study with methodological implications

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 June 1999

University of Wales, Bangor
International Christian University, Tokyo


In this case study we investigate how early a developing bilingual exposed simultaneously to English and Spanish can make appropriate language choices. We propose two methodological requirements for studies of this kind: (1) detailed records of the development of the child's lexicon; and (2) data collection in more than one language context. Our own study relies on detailed records of the child's cumulative vocabulary from the first word at ten months, and on weekly audiovideo recordings in both English and Spanish contexts from age 1;3. Analysis of the data shows a strong tendency for the language of the child's utterances to match that of the context at ages 1;7–1;8.

© 1999 Cambridge University Press

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We should like to record our thanks to the British Academy and the ESRC for their financial support (ref. no. C00232393), to Chris Whitaker for his statistical advice, and to Marilyn Vihman for her comments on an earlier version of this paper.