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Language and Cognitive Aspects of Child Bilingualism

Research Observations and Classroom Applications


Maria Andreou

This book investigates how bilingualism affects children’s language, cognitive and narrative abilities. The data sample derives from 209 8-12 years old bilingual children, in three different targeted languages (Greek-English, Greek-German, Greek-Albanian) along with 100 monolingual Greek children. The children completed baseline and experimental tasks measuring their vocabulary, grammar, cognitive skills, and narrative production abilities. The outcome of this work reveals that learning to read and write in two languages is beneficial for the development of language and cognitive skills. A strong case can be made to the growing bilingual communities in Germany and beyond to provide literacy training in both languages within mainstream schools, afternoon classes outside of the curriculum or in community schools.

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8 Discussion


The overarching aim of this book is to explore the interaction between bilingualism, language and cognitive abilities. To this end we considered several factors that can affect bilinguals’ performance on linguistic and cognitive tasks, such as age of onset, age at the time of testing, biliteracy, educational setting, language input in past and current activities, and dominance as independent variables.

The first research question of the study concerns the domains of vocabulary and morphosyntax. In particular, we wanted to see what factors predict vocabulary and grammatical abilities of bilingual children and if and how they differ from monolinguals.

Up to now there has been much discussion in the literature on bilingual children’s vocabulary, especially on the properties that differentiate among bilinguals and thus lead some of them to have similar performance with their monolingual peers and others to lag behind their control group. Many studies show that when only one language is considered, bilingual children typically underperform their monolingual peers (e.g., Marchman, Fernald and Hurtado 2010; Patterson and Pearson 2004), whereas in other studies (e.g., Pearson 1993) results, show a similar performance between bilinguals and monolinguals. In this study we chose to investigate bilingual children’s vocabulary knowledge by examining them on expressive vocabulary skills in both languages of all language pairs.

Although, as is well-known, expressive vocabulary causes greater difficulties to bilinguals than receptive vocabulary, we decided to focus on expressive vocabulary as it has been shown to be more related to syntactic ability...

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