Expressive Vocabulary of German-English Bilingual Toddlers This study investigated whether young children learning two languages simultaneously are inherently weaker language learners than their monolingual counterparts. Two questions were examined: (a) whether simultaneous language learning at an early age slows down the language learning process for both languages (bilingualism deficit hypothesis) and (b) whether young children use ... Research Article
Research Article  |   November 01, 2002
Expressive Vocabulary of German-English Bilingual Toddlers
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Dörte A. Junker
    C.S. Mott Children's Hospital University of Michigan
  • Ida J. Stockman
    Department of Audiology and Speech Sciences Michigan State University
  • Contact author: Dölrte Junker, University of Michigan Health System, C. S. Mott Children's Hospital, 200 E. Hospital Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-0224. E-mail: junkerd@med.umich.edu
Article Information
Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / Research Articles
Research Article   |   November 01, 2002
Expressive Vocabulary of German-English Bilingual Toddlers
American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, November 2002, Vol. 11, 381-394. doi:10.1044/1058-0360(2002/042)
History: Received March 31, 2001 , Accepted January 4, 2002
 
American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, November 2002, Vol. 11, 381-394. doi:10.1044/1058-0360(2002/042)
History: Received March 31, 2001; Accepted January 4, 2002
Web of Science® Times Cited: 54

This study investigated whether young children learning two languages simultaneously are inherently weaker language learners than their monolingual counterparts. Two questions were examined: (a) whether simultaneous language learning at an early age slows down the language learning process for both languages (bilingualism deficit hypothesis) and (b) whether young children use a unitary language system containing features of both languages, preventing them from separating the languages (unitary language system hypothesis). To test these hypotheses, vocabulary skills of 10 German-English bilingual toddlers were compared with those of monolingual German- and English-speaking peers around 24 months of age using Rescorla's (1989) Language Development Survey. This vocabulary checklist, based on parental report, was used in its original English and in a German translated version. Findings revealed that bilingual toddlers were not inferior in conceptual vocabulary size and verb diversity when words in both languages were pooled. Given that nearly half of the bilingual conceptual vocabulary (43%) was associated with lexical forms in both languages, it is inferred that language separation is possible at age 2. Findings from this study contribute to the growing body of evidence that early simultaneous acquisition of more that one language is not an inherent disadvantage for the child. These findings suggest further that some existing instruments may be useful for assessing the early vocabulary of German-English bilingual toddlers.

Acknowledgments
The authors thank the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, Office of the Dean, and the Department of Audiology and Speech Science for their financial support of our research. We would also thank Dr. John Eulenberg and Dr. Susan Gass of Michigan State University for their critical comments and helpful suggestions.
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