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Academic Paper

Title: A growth curve analysis of novel word learning by sequential bilingual preschool children
Author: Pui Fong Kan
Institution: University of Minnesota
Author: Kathryn Kohnert
Institution: University of Minnesota
Linguistic Field: Applied Linguistics; Language Acquisition
Subject Language: English
Hmong Njua
Abstract: Longitudinal word learning studies which control for experience can advance understanding of language learning and potential intra- and inter-language relationships in developing bilinguals. We examined novel word learning in both the first (L1) and the second (L2) languages of bilingual children. The rate and shape of change as well as the role of existing vocabulary in new word learning were of primary interest. Participants were 32 three-to-five-year old children. All participants had Hmong as their L1 and English as their L2. A novel word learning paradigm was used to measure children's acquisition of new form–meaning associations in L1 and L2 over eight weekly training sessions (four in each language). Two-level hierarchical linear models were used to analyze change in the comprehension and production of new words in Hmong and English over time. Results showed that there were comparable linear gains in novel word comprehension and production in both the L1 and the L2, despite different starting points. Success in novel word learning was predicted to some extent by existing vocabulary knowledge within each language. Between-language relationships were both positive and negative. These findings are consistent with highly interactive dynamic theories of sequential bilingual language learning.


This article appears IN Bilingualism: Language and Cognition Vol. 15, Issue 3, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .

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