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The Acquisition of English by Spanish-speaking preschoolers: A Longitudinal Study

In this project, we are examining how Spanish-speaking preschoolers’ English and Spanish receptive vocabularies, understanding of relational terms, morphology, syntax, and phonemic awareness are correlated in development. We are comparing their English language acquisition longitudinally to two English-speaking groups: one that matches the native Spanish speakers in initial English vocabulary level and a second group that matched the Spanish speakers in age. Preliminary findings suggest that for the native Spanish-speakers, exposure to English was strongly correlated with the development of English vocabulary and knowledge of English relational terms, suggesting that exposure is critical for development in these areas. We also found that the Spanish-speakers were acquiring English vocabulary at a slower pace than their vocabulary-matched peers, suggesting a limited capacity for vocabulary growth in a second language. However, we found positive correlations between Spanish relational terms and English syntax, morphology, and phonemic awareness suggesting that development in Spanish might facilitate the acquisition of certain English language components. Future work will focus on better understanding the English lexicons of young first and second language learners.


Collaborator: Katie Gordon Millett

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Last modified on November 20, 2008