Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department

Child and Family Studies

Major Professor

Sarah Bloom, Ph.D., BCBA

Committee Member

Raymond Miltenberger, Ph.D., BCBA

Committee Member

Andrew Samaha, Ph.D., BCBA


bilingualism, early childhood, language, verbal behavior


Bilingual children represent a large population of preschool and school-aged children in the United States. Challenges may arise when the verbal community in which a child spends most of his or her time does not reinforce his or her primary language. Previous research has shown that children adjust their language to match the language of their listener (Genesee, Boivin, & Nicoladis, 1996). It is possible that having a native-language communication partner at school would improve child engagement, as measured by child mean length of utterance and quantity of child initiations. The purpose of this study is to examine whether listener language has an effect on number of child initiations and mean length of utterance. A secondary purpose is to replicate and extend previous research on children matching their language to that of their listener in Spanish-speaking preschoolers. Four preschoolers who were exposed to Spanish at home and English in their instructional setting were recruited. Their language proficiency was assessed with the preLAS and they were exposed to Spanish-speaking communication partners and English-speaking communication partners in a multielement design. Results suggest that the language of the listener had implications for amount of child initiations and mean length of utterance. This was not always predicted by the language proficiency assessment. Also, children were more likely to use their dominant language in the non-dominant language context than use the non-dominant language in the dominant language context. These results may have implications for best practices in educational settings for Spanish-speaking preschoolers.