Balancing Bilinguals Lexical-Semantic Production and Cognitive Processing in Children Learning Spanish and English Research Article
Research Article  |   December 01, 1999
Balancing Bilinguals
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Kathryn J. Kohnert
    University of California, San Diego San Diego State University
  • Elizabeth Bates
    University of California, San Diego
  • Arturo E. Hernandez
    University of California, San Diego University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Corresponding author: e-mail: kkohnert@crl.ucsd.edu
Article Information
Development / Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   December 01, 1999
Balancing Bilinguals
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 1999, Vol. 42, 1400-1413. doi:10.1044/jslhr.4206.1400
History: Received September 16, 1998 , Accepted April 27, 1999
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 1999, Vol. 42, 1400-1413. doi:10.1044/jslhr.4206.1400
History: Received September 16, 1998; Accepted April 27, 1999

The present study investigated developmental changes in lexical production skills in early sequential bilinguals, in both Spanish (L1) and English (L2), exploring the effects of age, years of experience, and basic-level cognitive processing (specifically the ability to resist interference) within a timed picture-naming task. To assess resistance to interference, naming was compared in low competition (blocked-single language) vs. high competition (mixed-alternating language) conditions. Participants were 100 individuals, 20 at each of 5 different age levels (5–7, 8–10, 11–13, 14–16, & young adults). All had learned Spanish as a first language in the home, with formal English experience beginning at 5 years. Gains were made in both languages across age. However, there was a developmental crossover from Spanish dominance in the youngest children, through a period of relatively balanced Spanish and English skills in middle childhood, culminating in a clear pattern of English dominance among adolescents and young adults. Although all groups experienced a greater slowing of response times in the mixed-language condition relative to the blocked-language condition, developmental changes in the pattern of speed-accuracy trade-offs in the mixed condition can be interpreted to reflect a change in the ability to resist cognitive interference during word production.

Acknowledgments
This research was supported by grants from the University of California Linguistic Minority Research Institute and NIA, Grant P50-AG05131–11, entitled “Aging and Bilingualism.” We thank Vera Gutierrez-Clellen, Karla McGregor, Mabel Rice, and two anonymous reviewers for their comments on earlier drafts of this manuscript. We also thank Lorena Huerta, Eloisa Falcón, Eugenia Gurrola, Ronald Figueroa, and Armando Chavez for their assistance on this project.
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