Cross-language synonyms in the lexicons of bilingual infants: One language or two?


This study tests the widely-cited claim from Volterra & Taeschner (1978), which is reinforced by Clark's principle of contrast (1987), that young simultaneous bilingual children reject cross-language synonyms in their earliest lexicons. The rejection of translation equivalents is taken by Volterra & Taeschner as support for the idea that the bilingual child possesses a single-language system which includes elements from both languages. We examine first the accuracy of the empirical claim and then its adequacy as support for the argument that bilingual children do not have independent lexical systems in each language. The vocabularies of 27 developing bilinguals were recorded at varying intervals between ages o;8 and 2;6, using the MacArthur CDI, a standardized parent report form in English and Spanish. The two single-language vocabularies of each bilingual child were compared to determine how many pairs of translation equivalents (TEs) were reported for each child at different stages of development. TEs were observed for all children but one, with an average of 30 % of all words. © 1995, Cambridge University Press. All right reserved.

Publication Title

Journal of Child Language