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Cognition. 2015 Jul;140:122-34. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2015.03.013. Epub 2015 Apr 20.

Semantic facilitation in bilingual first language acquisition.

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Institute of Mathematics, University of Warwick, United Kingdom.
Department of Psychology, University of Houston, United States.
Department of Psychology, University of Warwick, United Kingdom. Electronic address:


Bilingual first language learners face unique challenges that may influence the rate and order of early word learning relative to monolinguals. A comparison of the productive vocabularies of 435 children between the ages of 6 months and 7 years-181 of which were bilingual English learners-found that monolinguals learned both English words and all-language concepts faster than bilinguals. However, bilinguals showed an enhancement of an effect previously found in monolinguals-the preference for learning words with more associative cues. Though both monolinguals and bilinguals were best fit by a similar model of word learning, semantic network structure and growth indicated that the two groups were learning English words in a different order. Further, in comparison with a model of two-monolinguals-in-one-mind, bilinguals overproduced translational equivalents. Our results support an emergent account of bilingual first language acquisition, where learning a word in one language facilitates its acquisition in a second language.


Bilingualism; Communicative development inventory; Language acquisition; Mutual exclusivity; Network analysis

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