UBC Faculty Research and Publications

The development of associative word learning in monolingual and bilingual infants Byers-Heinlein, Krista; Fennell, Christopher T.; Werker, Janet


Children growing up bilingual face a unique linguistic environment. The current study investigated whether early bilingual experience influences the developmental trajectory of associative word learning, a foundational mechanism for lexical acquisition. Monolingual and bilingual infants (N=98) were tested on their ability to learn dissimilar-sounding words (lif and neem) in the Switch task. Twelve-month-olds from both language backgrounds failed to detect a violation of a previously taught word-object pairing. However, both monolinguals and bilinguals succeeded at 14-months, and their performance did not differ. The results indicate that early bilingual experience does not interfere with the development of the fundamental ability to form word-object associations, suggesting that this mechanism is robust across different early language environments.

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