Category-generation performance in Mandarin-English bilingual children

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Song, Min-An

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Research has shown that children categorize words in terms of taxonomic and slot-filler strategies. Monolingual children were thought to shift from a slot-filler to taxonomic strategy between the age of five and eight. The aim of this study is to analyze the way Mandarin-English bilingual children organize their lexical-semantic system through the use of a category-generation task that investigate taxonomic and slot-filler organizational strategies in each language. There were 53 Mandarin-English bilingual participants (between 4 and 7 years of age) included in this study. Participants were asked to name as many items as they could think of in slot-filler and taxonomic conditions in English and Mandarin. The results indicate greater performance in English than Mandarin in children who were five years or older. Four-year-old bilingual children produced comparable number of items in both slot-fill and taxonomic condition, but the five-, six-, and seven-year-old bilingual children showed greater performance in the taxonomic condition. Children performed better for the animal than the clothes category, and better for the clothes than the food category. These findings, while largely consistent with existing literature, suggest that the slot-filler to taxonomic shift may take place at an earlier age compared to monolingual children.



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