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Multilingual toddlers’ vocabulary development in two languages: Comparing bilinguals and trilinguals

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 February 2021

Stephanie L. CÔTÉ
Department of Psychology, Concordia University, Canada Centre for Research on Brain, Language and Music, Concordia University, Canada
Department of Psychology, Concordia University, Canada Centre for Research on Brain, Language and Music, Concordia University, Canada
Department of Psychology, Concordia University, Canada Centre for Research on Brain, Language and Music, Concordia University, Canada
Address for correspondence: Ana Maria Gonzalez-Barrero, Concordia University, Department of Psychology, 7141 Sherbrooke St. West Montreal, Québec, Canada, H4B 1R6 E-mail:


Many children grow up hearing multiple languages, learning words in each. How does the number of languages being learned affect multilinguals’ vocabulary development? In a pre-registered study, we compared productive vocabularies of bilingual (n = 170) and trilingual (n = 20) toddlers aged 17–33 months growing up in a bilingual community where both French and English are spoken. We hypothesized that because trilinguals have reduced input in French and English due to time spent hearing their third language, they would have smaller French–English vocabulary sizes than bilinguals. Trilinguals produced on average 2/3 of the number of words in these languages that bilinguals did: however, this difference was not statistically robust due to large levels of variability. Follow-up analyses did, however, indicate a relationship between input quantity and vocabulary size. Our results indicate that similar factors contribute to vocabulary development across toddlers regardless of the number of languages being acquired.

Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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