Graduation Year

2008

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.S.

Degree Granting Department

Communication Sciences and Disorders

Major Professor

Ruth Huntley Bahr, Ph.D.

Keywords

Bilingual, Spanish, Phonetic inventory, Proportion of whole-word proximity (PWP), Mother's language ability

Abstract

The present study present study explored the relationships among language use, phonological skill, and vocabulary development for 36 Cuban and Puerto Rican ELL preschoolers. Family-level variables included mother's education level and mother's language ability. Three-way ANOVAs were used to investigate the relationships among child- and family-level variables and children's performance on articulation (completeness of phonetic inventory (CPI) and proportion of whole-word proximity (PWP)) and language measures (Picture Vocabulary (PV) and Memory for Sentences (MS) subtests of the WLPB-R) in English and Spanish. Regression and correlational analyses were conducted to describe relationships between variables. Findings indicated that children in all language groups (predominantly English speaking, predominantly Spanish speaking and bilingual) demonstrated strong phonological skills, as measured by CPI and PWP, in both languages.

Strength in phonological skill appeared to be related to frequency of language use, especially in English. Similarities in children's phonetic inventories across languages suggested that exposure to two languages does not interfere with phonological development in ELL children. The fact that English and Spanish share many of the same phonemes may contribute to this finding. Results for the PWPs were consistent with the findings from the CPI analyses. PWPs were found to predict children's English vocabulary level in the early stages of dual language learning. A predictive relationship was found between mother's English language ability and child's phonological skill, suggesting that when more English was used in the home, children exhibited greater English phonological production skills. In addition, mother's Spanish language ability was shown to predict child's Spanish vocabulary knowledge. This finding supports the use of the native language in the home.

While phonological skill was a strength, language skills, as measured by the PV and MS subtests, were significantly below average. With the exception of the PE group in English, all children performed more than 1.5 standard deviations below the mean for both subtests in both languages, suggesting that they are not acquiring sufficient vocabulary knowledge to support academic learning in either language. It is suggested that delivery of adequate vocabulary instruction that meets the needs of these ELL children requires collaboration between teachers and speech-language pathologists.

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