Is There a Cognate Advantage for Typically Developing Spanish-Speaking English-Language Learners? Purpose Cross-linguistic cognates are words that share form and meaning in two languages (e.g., helicopter–helicóptero); translation equivalents are words that share meaning but not form (e.g., house–casa). Research consistently demonstrates a performance speed and/or accuracy advantage for processing cognates versus noncognates in bilingual adults; studies with children are limited, with ... Research Article
Research Article  |   April 01, 2012
Is There a Cognate Advantage for Typically Developing Spanish-Speaking English-Language Learners?
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Alaina Kelley
    University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
  • Kathryn Kohnert
    University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
  • Correspondence to Alaina Kelley, who is now at Center for Speech, Language and Learning, Inc., Oakdale, MN: kelle554@umn.edu
  • Editor: Marilyn Nippold
    Editor: Marilyn Nippold×
  • Associate Editor: Cynthia Johnson
    Associate Editor: Cynthia Johnson×
Article Information
Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / Research Articles
Research Article   |   April 01, 2012
Is There a Cognate Advantage for Typically Developing Spanish-Speaking English-Language Learners?
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, April 2012, Vol. 43, 191-204. doi:10.1044/0161-1461(2011/10-0022)
History: Received March 26, 2010 , Revised August 8, 2010 , Accepted September 25, 2011
 
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, April 2012, Vol. 43, 191-204. doi:10.1044/0161-1461(2011/10-0022)
History: Received March 26, 2010; Revised August 8, 2010; Accepted September 25, 2011
Web of Science® Times Cited: 15

Purpose Cross-linguistic cognates are words that share form and meaning in two languages (e.g., helicopterhelicóptero); translation equivalents are words that share meaning but not form (e.g., housecasa). Research consistently demonstrates a performance speed and/or accuracy advantage for processing cognates versus noncognates in bilingual adults; studies with children are limited, with equivocal results. We investigated the potential for a cognate advantage for processing expressive and receptive vocabulary in the spoken (vs. written) modality in typically developing Spanish-speaking English-language learners (ELLs).

Method Thirty 8- to 13-year-old native Spanish-speaking children learning English as their second language completed standardized vocabulary tests in spoken English. Each test item was classified as a cognate or noncognate based on phonological overlap with its Spanish translation. Group and individual analyses were used to examine the effects of cognates.

Results At the group level, children’s test scores were higher for items that were classified as cognates as compared to noncognates of comparable difficulty. However, not all children demonstrated this cognate advantage. Age predicted significant amounts of variance in cognate performance on the receptive test.

Conclusion Overall, typically developing Spanish-speaking school-age ELL students demonstrated a cognate advantage. There was also considerable within-group variation in performance. Clinical implications are discussed, and directions for future study are provided.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Support for research and manuscript preparation was provided by grants from the National Institutes of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD 1R21DC010868-01), the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD RFA-DC-05-001), and the Bryng Bryngelson Research Fund in Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences at the University of Minnesota. Portions of this research were reported in the first author’s MA thesis, under the second author’s advisement, and were presented in part by the authors at the 2009 annual convention of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association in New Orleans, LA.
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