Cognate facilitation effects in bilingual children of varying language dominance

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2017-12-05

Authors

Ramirez, Mayra Chantal

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Abstract

A widely accepted theory is that bilinguals activate both of their languages regardless of which is in use. Though there is abundant research on this phenomenon in bilingual adults, less research has focused on bilingual children. Cognates (i.e., words that share meaning and sound across languages) have frequently been used to explore language co-activation. The present study investigates cognate facilitation effects in child bilinguals of varying language dominance. Spanish-English bilingual children between 6 and 10 years old performed a picture-naming task that included pictures of cognates and non-cognates. Children who were more English-dominant experienced larger cognate facilitation effects when producing words in their non-dominant language but not in their dominant language. In contrast, children with more balanced dominance did not experience cognate facilitation effects in either language. The findings from this study may have implications for the development of the bilingual lexicon.

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