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Phonological Acquisition in Bilingual

SpanishEnglish Speaking Children


Leah Fabiano-Smith
State University of New York at New Paltz

Brian A. Goldstein
Temple University, Philadelphia, PA

Purpose: In this study, the authors aimed to determine how between-language


interaction contributes to phonological acquisition in bilingual SpanishEnglish
speaking children.
Method: A total of 24 typically developing children, ages 3;0 (years;months) to
4;0, were included in this study: 8 bilingual SpanishEnglish speaking children,
8 monolingual Spanish speakers, and 8 monolingual English speakers. Single word
and connected speech samples were obtained for each child. This study examined
interaction between the two languages of bilingual children during phonological
acquisition through the measurement of (a) transfer (the frequency and types of
phonological transfer present in the speech of bilingual children); (b) deceleration
(a slower rate of acquisition for bilinguals as compared with monolinguals); and
(c) acceleration (a faster rate of acquisition for bilinguals as compared with
monolinguals.
Results: Findings demonstrated that (a) transfer was evident in the productions of
bilingual children, (b) differences were found in accuracy between monolingual
and bilingual children, and (c) sound frequency did not predict differential accuracy
of either phonetically similar sounds between languages or phonetically dissimilar
sounds specific to Spanish or English.
Implications: The results from this study indicate that transfer, deceleration, and a
possible variation of the acceleration hypothesis occur in bilingual phonological
acquisition. Evidence was found for separation and interaction between the bilingual
childrens 2 languages (J. Paradis & F. Genesee, 1996).
KEY WORDS: phonology, interaction, bilingual, Spanish

ome studies have found that bilingual children begin with a single
language system that gradually separates into two autonomous
systems (e.g., Leopold, 1970; Schnitzer & Krasinski, 1994; Vogel,
1975). This orientation to bilingual language acquisition is referred to as
the unitary system model (USM; e.g., Bhatia & Ritchie, 1999; Genesee,
1989). In contrast, the dual systems model maintains that bilingual children develop separate language systems for each language and that these
systems do not interact (e.g., Keshavarz & Ingram, 2002). A third possibility is that the two systems of bilingual children do interact (Paradis,
2001; Paradis & Genesee, 1996). To account for interaction between languages, Paradis and Genesee (1996) proposed a series of interdependence
hypotheses in an attempt to determine how bilingual children acquire
their two language systems. Interdependence has been defined as transfer,
deceleration, and acceleration in bilingual language acquisition (Paradis &
Genesee, 1996). Hereafter, this notion of interdependence in acquisition
will be referred to as interaction. The present study investigates interaction specifically in the area of phonological acquisition.

160 Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research

Vol. 53 160178 February 2010 D American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

Transfer
Paradis and Genesee (1996) hypothesized that consonants and/or vowels that are specific to one language
will transfer to productions of the other language. This
is known as segmental transferan example would be
when a bilingual SpanishEnglish speaking child uses
the approximant /a/, a sound specific to English, in the
production of a Spanish word (e.g., carro /karo/ Y
[kaao]). Transfer has been found to occur in a bi-directional
mannerthat is, from English to Spanish as well as from
Spanish to English. Researchers who investigate bilingualism have argued that bilingual childrens rates
of transfer may be indicative of interaction between their
two languages (Keshavarz & Ingram, 2002; Paradis,
2001). A number of studies have examined this issue.
For example, in a study on one of their SpanishEnglish
speaking sons (from ages 1;6 [years;months] to 4;6),
Schnitzer and Krasinski (1996) found a low frequency
(i.e., few tokens) of phonological transfer between their
childs two languages, indicating a low level of betweenlanguage interaction. Keshavarz and Ingram (2002), in
their case study of a FarsiEnglish bilingual child, found
some specific examples of transfer, although it was not
widespread from either English to Farsi or vice versa.
Thus, they concluded that the evidenced transfer was indicative of two language systems that were not entirely
separate from one another. In another study, Fabiano
and Goldstein (2004a) compared two typically developing (TD) 4-year-old SpanishEnglish speaking children
(one who was undergoing bilingual first language acquisition (BFLA) and one who was a sequential bilingual
child) and two 4-year-old SpanishEnglish speaking children with phonological disorders (PDs; one who was undergoing BFLA and one who was a sequential bilingual
child). Three occurrences of segmental transfer were
found, with all occurrences being produced by the 2 bilingual children with phonological disorders. In a follow-up
study, Fabiano and Goldstein (2004b) examined 2 additional bilingual children undergoing BFLA (one TD
and one with a PD) following the same methodology as
discussed in their 2004a study. They found one occurrence of segmental transfer in the child who presented
with a PD yet no instances of either prosodic or syllabic
transfer. Paradis (2001) compared 17 FrenchEnglish
speaking children undergoing BFLA, ages 2335 months,
to 18 French monolingual and 18 English monolingual
speakers on sound and syllable production. In the bilingual childrens productions, she found that the stress
patterns of French influenced initial syllable stress
patterns of English; however, the bilingual childrens
stress patterns on weak syllables were identical to the
patterns of monolingual children. Paradiss (2001) conclusion was that for many of the bilingual children, interaction was occurring infrequently between their two
languages.

Past studies examining transfer in bilingual children indicated that at least some transfer exists from
one language to the other. Previous studies, however
with the exception of Paradis (2001)have yet to examine patterns of between-language transfer across groups
of bilingual speakers. A multiple-subject design is needed
to examine patterns of phonological acquisition across, as
well as within, bilingual children.

Deceleration
For their second hypothesis, deceleration, Paradis and
Genesee (1996) predicted that aspects of phonological development emerge at a slower rate in bilingual children
than in monolingual children.1 The premise behind the deceleration hypothesis is that interaction between the two
languages of bilinguals interferes with acquisition and
thus results in poorer linguistic skills in bilinguals compared with monolinguals. Some evidence for this hypothesis has been found in studies comparing bilingual
children with monolingual children in the domains of syntax and morphology (e.g., Swain, 1972; Vihman, 1982)
and, more recently, phonology (Gildersleeve-Neumann,
Kester, Davis, & Pea, 2008).
Gildersleeve-Neumann et al. (2008) examined the
English phonological skills of TD, bilingual English
Spanish speaking 3-year-olds. The results revealed that
although the bilingual children exhibited phonetic inventories in English that fell within the normal range for
their monolingual English-speaking peers, they also demonstrated lower accuracy than monolinguals. Therefore, as
compared with their English-speaking peers, the bilingual
children in their study demonstrated a slower rate of
development, as measured by accuracy of production.
Goldstein and Washington (2001) compared 4-year-old
SpanishEnglish bilinguals to their age-matched monolingual peers in both Spanish and English. The bilingual
children in their study were much less accurate than
monolingual speakers on three Spanish sound classes
(spirants, flap, and trill) but exhibited skills within the
normal range for monolingual speakers on all other sound
classes. Therefore, there is some evidence in previous
work that the rate of acquisition for bilinguals might be
slower when compared with their monolingual counterparts, at least on measures of accuracy.

Acceleration
For their third hypothesis, Paradis and Genesee
(1996) posit that certain properties in the grammar 2 of
1

For their second hypothesis, Paradis and Genesee (1996) used the term
delay to refer to cases in which language abilities acquired by monolingual
children are acquired at a later age by bilingual children. Although Paradis
and Genesee (1996) did not intend to suggest impairment in their discussion of
bilingual acquisition, the term delay might connote some level of impairment.
Thus, here, the delay hypothesis is termed deceleration.
2
The term grammar is used here in the broad sense to include phonology.

Fabiano-Smith et al.: Phonological Acquisition in Bilingual Children

161

bilingual children emerge at a faster rate in bilingual


children relative to age-matched monolinguals. The premise behind the acceleration hypothesis is that interaction
between the two languages of bilingual children aids in
the acquisition process and thus results in superior linguistic skills in bilinguals compared with monolinguals.
A number of studies have shown support for this hypothesis as well. Specifically, Tracy (1995) and GawlitzekMaiwald and Tracy (1996) examined GermanEnglish
bilingual children and observed that certain structural
properties of German allow for faster acquisition of some
structural properties in English. For example, they found
that one of the bilingual children in their study, Hannah,
acquired English infinitival phrase structure at a faster
rate than did age-matched monolingual English-speaking
children. Similarly, Kehoe, Trujillo, and Lle (2001) and
Lle, Kuchenbrandt, Kehoe, and Trujillo (2003) examined interaction between the two languages of Spanish
German bilingual children. They found that acquisition
of German resulted in faster acquisition of coda consonants in the Spanish productions of bilingual children as
compared with their monolingual Spanish-speaking peers.
The authors concluded that interaction between German
and Spanish led to acceleration in bilingual phonological
acquisition. These findings demonstrated that bilingual
children may, at times, show a faster rate of acquisition
for some language constructs when compared with their
monolingual peers.

A Variation of Acceleration
Previous studies have found evidence of transfer,
deceleration, and acceleration in bilingual acquisition.
However, there is no hypothesis that accounts for results of studies that have found bilingual children to
demonstrate rates of acquisition that fall within the
normal range for monolingual speakers of both languages
(DeHouwer, 1995; Goldstein, Fabiano, & Washington,
2005; Goldstein & Washington, 2001 [for phonology];
Nicoladis, 1994; Padilla & Liebman, 1975 [for morphosyntax]; Paradis & Genesee, 1996). Demonstrating such
a rate of acquisition at a given point in development
might be indicative of interaction between a bilingual
childs two languages. Perhaps one language might be
aiding in the acquisition of the other, allowing for a rate
of acquisition in bilinguals that falls within the normal
range for monolingual children of the same age. This
possibility could provide evidence for a variation of the
acceleration hypothesis.
For instance, Paradis and Genesee (1996) examined
the syntactic skills of three bilingual FrenchEnglish
speaking children undergoing BFLA (ages 1;11-2;2). Specifically, the authors examined functional categories,
as this construct is acquired earlier in French than in
English. They found that the bilingual children in their
162

study were acquiring the targeted aspect of syntax at the


same rate as that of their monolingual peers. In another
study, Goldstein and Washington (2001) examined the
English and Spanish phonological skills of TD, 4-yearold bilingual children and found no significant differences between bilingual and monolingual children on
percent correct consonants, percent correct consonants
for sound classes, or percentage of occurrence of phonological patterns. The results of their study indicated
that the overall phonological skills of bilingual 4-yearolds were similar to those of monolingual children in
both languages. Similarly, Goldstein et al. (2005) examined the phonological skills of TD 5-year-old bilingual
SpanishEnglish speaking children and compared them
with their age-matched monolingual peers. The authors
found no significant difference between bilingual and
monolingual children on segmental accuracy, syllabic
accuracy, or percentage of occurrence of phonological
patterns. These findings indicate that bilingual children
are maintaining a rate of acquisition that is similar to
that of their monolingual peers. Thus, the relative load
of two inputs is not resulting in acquisition for bilinguals
that occurs at a slower rate, nor is one language aiding
the other to the extent that acquisition is occurring at a
faster rate. Rather, interaction between the two languages
of bilingual children leads to a rate of development that
is within the normal range of their monolingual peers.
It is important to highlight that bilingual children
can exhibit characteristics of transfer, deceleration, and
a variation of acceleration simultaneously. For example, Fabiano-Smith and Barlow (2009) examined 8 bilingual SpanishEnglish speaking children (ages 3;0-4;0)
and compared them to their monolingual, age-matched
peers. An accuracy analysis and a typological analysis of
phonetic inventories were performed in order to identify
instances of transfer, deceleration, and acceleration. They
found that even though the bilingual children demonstrated lower accuracy of production when compared
with monolinguals, their phonetic inventories were just
as complex in both languages as the phonetic inventories
of monolingual speakers of either language. The bilingual children acquired two complex phonetic inventories
at the same rate that the monolingual children acquired
only one (i.e., a variation of acceleration). The authors
also found instances of transfer in the productions of
many of the bilingual children. These results indicate
that examining one phonological construct may provide
evidence for deceleration, but examining other phonological constructs may provide evidence for a variation
of acceleration and/or transfer. Thus, it is possible for
transfer, deceleration, and a variation of acceleration to
exist in development simultaneously.
It is necessary, then, to determine what bilingual
children implicitly know about the sounds in the two
languages they are acquiring (Watson, 1991). It may be

Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research Vol. 53 160178 February 2010

possible to provide evidence for Paradis and Genesees


(1996) hypotheses by determining how accurately bilingual SpanishEnglish speaking children produce
sounds that are phonetically similar between their two
languages (referred to here as shared sounds) versus
sounds that are phonetically dissimilar and language specific (referred to here as unshared sounds; see Table 1).
The examination of shared and unshared sounds could
also provide evidence for how bilingual children achieve
rates of acquisition that fall within the normal range
for monolingual children (i.e., a variation of the acceleration hypothesis).

Phonetic Similarity
Our notion of shared versus unshared sound accuracy is adapted from the literature on the relevance of
phonetic similarity on second language (L2) phonological acquisition (Flege, 1981, 1987). L2 learners have
little difficulty in the perceptual categorization of secondlanguage sounds that are phonetically similar to those in
their native language (L1; Flege, 1981). L2 learners often
perceive L2 speech sounds in terms of their L1 phonemic
categories (Flege, 1987). This may account for why speakers extend the production of already familiar sounds into
new (L2) phonetic contexts. Thus, there seems to be a systematic interaction between the two languages of the L2
speaker, reminiscent of Paradis and Genesees (1996)
notion of interaction between the two language systems of
bilingual children.
Fleges (1981) notion of sound categorization in adult
L2 acquisition could be occurring in bilingual phonological acquisition in a similar way. Just as Flege posits for

L2 learners, we hypothesize that bilingual children perceive phonetically similar sounds as common between
their two languages and categorize them into the same
phonemic category despite their fine phonetic distinctions (e.g., aspiration on stops). The result of this categorization, according to our prediction, is that sounds
that are phonetically similar between the two languages
are more quickly accessed and therefore extended into
the phonetic contexts of both languages. Bilingual children would then have more production experience with
these phonetically similar (i.e., shared) sounds than with
phonetically dissimilar (i.e., unshared) sounds, thereby
influencing accuracy. Bilingual children may reduce the
use of allophonic variants of a shared phoneme, but the
essential features of that phoneme remain intact (i.e.,
voicing, place, and manner). That is, another phoneme
is not substituted for the target sound, which would
thereby result in a production error. Rather, bilingual
children may use the same sound in both language contexts because doing so does not interfere with the sounds
ability to mark distinctions between words (e.g., /p/ in
both English and Spanish carries the same function).
This, in turn, may lead to an increase in rate of acquisition of these phonetically similar sounds. Bilingual
children could be using one sound in productions of both
languages due to interaction between their two languages. The interaction occurring between the bilingual
childs two languages that allows for quicker access of
phonetically similar sounds could lead to more experience in production and an increased rate of acquisition
(i.e., a variation of acceleration that allows bilinguals to
demonstrate a rate of acquisition that falls within the
normal range of monolinguals).

Table 1. Shared and unshared sounds between English and Spanish.


Sound classes

Shared sounds

Plosives
/p/, /b/, /t/, /d/, /k/, /g/
Nasals
/m/, /n/
Fricatives
/f/, /s/, /8/*
Spirants*
Affricate
/^/
Lateral liquid
/l/
Nonlateral liquid
Glides
/w/, /j/**
Flap
Trill

Unshared sounds
Unshared sounds specific to English specific to Spanish

nasal /:/
/v/, /Z/, /z/, /S/, /q/, /h/

//
[b], [S]

/u/
/a/
/R/
/r/

*The voiced interdental fricative /8/ is phonemic in English but allophonic in Spanish. It is being analyzed as
shared because phonologists are divided over which group of soundsspirants or voiced stopsis the
underlying form. For example, Barlow (2003) argues that the spirant [8] in Spanish may actually be the
underlying form and not the phonetic realization of /d/; thus, it was included in the shared sound category.
**Glides were analyzed as part of the vowel nucleus for Spanish (Harris, 1993); thus, they were not included in
analyses of accuracy for either English or Spanish.

Fabiano-Smith et al.: Phonological Acquisition in Bilingual Children

163

This concept of sound categorization for L2 speakers


has been generalized into the context of bilingual children in previous studies examining the accuracy of shared
and unshared sounds. Goldstein, Fabiano, and Iglesias
(2003) examined 5 TD sequential bilingual Spanish
English speaking children (children whose L1 is Spanish
and began exposure to English at age 3;0) and 5 sequential bilingual children with PD (ages 4;0-7;0). They found
higher accuracy (a) on shared sounds and syllable types
than on unshared sounds and syllable types and (b) on
manner classes that possessed more shared sounds than
on manner classes that possessed more unshared sounds.
In addition, high accuracy on shared sounds was found
independent of the effect of developmental sequence
that is, bilingual children were not more accurate on
shared sounds simply because these sounds tended to be
acquired earlier than unshared sounds. This result was
found across the two languages and language ability
groups.

Frequency of Occurrence
of Shared Sounds
It is possible that, as with L2 speakers, bilingual
children are perceiving equivalence (Flege, 1981) for
overlapping phonological properties of their two languages and thus are establishing a single phonemic category for particular sounds that occur in both languages
(i.e., shared sounds). At the same time, they may maintain separate phonemic categories for those that only
occur in one language (i.e., unshared sounds). That is,
bilingual children may be more accurate on shared
sounds because these sounds are used in both language
contexts. This differential accuracy between shared and
unshared sounds may be evidence for and may account
for how bilingual children demonstrate rates of acquisition that are within the normal range for monolingual
peers in both languages. Sound accuracy, however, might
be predicted by frequency of occurrence of shared sounds.
Although the influence of developmental sequence did
not influence high accuracy of shared sound production
(Goldstein et al., 2003), it is possible that frequency of
occurrence of shared sounds does serve as a predictor.
The investigation of frequency was incorporated
into the current study in an attempt to examine the
effect of frequency of occurrence of shared sounds on the
accuracy of production of shared sounds. Sounds that
are frequently occurring in a language are thought to be
highly unmarked sounds (Cysouw, 2003). High frequency,
in other words, is related to low complexity (Greenberg,
1966; Jakobson, 1941, 1968; Trubetzkoy, 1939). Previous
studies have found that frequently occurring sounds are
produced with higher accuracy than sounds that are significantly less frequent. Indeed, Kirk and Demuth (2003)
reported that English-learning children acquired the
164

more frequent coda clusters before the less frequent onset clusters. In addition, high frequency stop + /s, z/ clusters were acquired before other, less frequent phoneme
combinations.
At issue is whether high accuracy of shared sounds
in bilingual speakers is a result of frequency of occurrence of those sounds in a language, given that speech
sound accuracy and frequency are related, at least crosslinguistically (Demuth, 2001; Levelt, 2000; Roark &
Demuth, 2000; Stemberger & MacWhinney, 1986).
Sounds in the shared category could be produced more
accurately than sounds in the unshared category simply
because they occur more frequently in the bilinguals two
languages and not because of interaction between the
bilinguals two languages. If frequency of occurrence is a
positive predictor of accuracy, then it will not be necessary to invoke notions of interaction to account for the
more accurate productions of shared over unshared
sounds. Thus, the predictive capability of frequency of
occurrence of sounds in each language on accuracy of
shared sounds was examined in the present study.

Purpose
The purpose of this study was to determine how
between-language interaction contributes to phonological acquisition in bilingual SpanishEnglish speaking children. Three research questions motivated this
investigation.
Research Question 1: Will bilingual children demonstrate evidence of interaction between their two languages
(i.e., transfer, deceleration, and acceleration) as predicted
by Paradis and Genesee (1996)? The type and frequency
of segmental transfer between the two languages of these
bilingual children will illustrate if, and to what extent,
this type of interaction occurs. Furthermore, lower accuracy in the productions of bilinguals compared with
monolinguals will provide evidence for a slower rate of
acquisition in bilingual children (i.e., deceleration). Conversely, significantly higher accuracy in the productions
of bilinguals as compared to monolinguals will provide
evidence for a faster rate of acquisition in bilingual children (i.e., acceleration).
Research Question 2: Will bilingual children demonstrate evidence for a variation of the hypothesis of acceleration due to phonetic similarity (Flege, 1981)? Higher
accuracy of bilingual childrens productions on shared
sounds than on unshared sounds, paired with the absence of this pattern in monolingual children, could provide evidence for between-language interaction and a
variation of the hypothesis of acceleration.
Research Question 3: Does sound frequency of occurrence predict high accuracy of shared sounds in the

Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research Vol. 53 160178 February 2010

productions of bilinguals? Frequency of occurrence of


sounds in a language could motivate high accuracy of
shared sounds. If frequency of occurrence predicts high
accuracy of shared sounds, then between-language interaction could not account for the higher accuracy of
shared sounds as compared with unshared sounds.

The bilingual children were speakers of Puerto Rican


and Dominican Spanish. This study took place during
May and June, and the children had been enrolled in a
bilingual Head Start program since the beginning of the
school year. Percent input and output were determined
for both languages through parent report (after Restrepo,
1998). All bilingual participants received at least 20%
input in both languages and produced at least 20% output
in both languages. This criterion follows from previous
work, which has shown that children need at least 20%
exposure in order to use the target language (Pearson,
Fernandez, Lewedeg, & Oller, 1997). The first author
asked parents to describe his or her childs schedule on a
typical day. The childs activities, the interlocutor(s) involved, and the language typically used during that activity were recorded. The number of hours of exposure to
each language per day, Monday through Friday, was determined (i.e., input). The same method was used to derive the number of hours the child used each language
during the work week (i.e., output). Similar questions were
asked regarding the childs weekend schedule. Overall
percentages of language use were calculated separately
by multiplying the number of hours of exposure (input)
or use (output) by 100, then dividing that number by the
total number of hours in the week. In addition, parents
rated their childrens proficiency in both English and
Spanish on a scale from 0 (child could not speak the indicated language at all) to 4 (child had native-like proficiency in the language; Pea, Bedore, & Rapazzo, 2003;
Pea, Bedore, & Zlatic-Giunta, 2002). All children included
in the present study were rated as either 3 or 4 by their
parents in both English and Spanish, indicating native or
near native-like competence in the indicated languages.

Method

Participants
Twenty-four TD children (ages 3;04;0) were included
in the present study. Children in the United States who
participated in the study were enrolled in a Head Start
program for which there is an income requirement; thus,
socioeconomic status (SES) was controlled for, despite the
fact that maternal education differed. Six of the 8 children
recorded in Mexico were from low-income households; the
2 remaining participants were the children of university
instructors (see the Results section for further details on
the childrens SES and phonological skills).
The children were categorized into three groups
based on language history: (a) eight bilingual Spanish
English speaking children (mean age = 3;6; range =
3;04;0); (b) eight monolingual Spanish speakers (mean
age = 3;4; range = 3;24;0); and (c) eight monolingual
English speakers (mean age = 3;3; range = 3;03;11). A
KruskalWallis nonparametric test (Kruskal & Wallis,
1952) indicated no significant difference between the
groups based on age, c2(2, N = 24) = 3.55, p = .169. An extensive parent and/or teacher report was used to determine each childs language status (i.e., monolingual or
bilingual) and phonological ability (i.e., to ensure that all
children were TD with no speech, language, cognitive, or
neurological deficits).

North Philadelphia, where the bilingual data were


collected, is a bilingual, Puerto Rican community that has
maintained the use of both English and Spanish for more
than 40 years. All children living in this community have

Bilingual participants. Demographic characteristics of the bilingual participants can be found in Table 2.
Table 2. Demographic data on bilingual participants.
Child CA (M = 3;5)
ID
[years;months] Gender
B01
B02
B03

3;8
3;5
3;8

B04

3;5

B05
B06

3;8
3;4

B07
B08

3;11
3;5

Male
Male
Male

Mothers
education

High school
High school
Some
university
Male Bachelors
degree
Female High school
Male Some
university
Male High school
Male Some
university

Percent input
Spanish

Percent output
Spanish

Percent input
English

Percent output
English

Proficiency
Spanish

Proficiency
English

63
75
58

63
75
30

37
25
42

37
25
70

4
4
3

3
3
3

50

20

50

80

40
70

20
20

60
30

80
80

3
3

4
4

40
80

20
50

60
20

80
50

3
3

4
3

Fabiano-Smith et al.: Phonological Acquisition in Bilingual Children

165

some English exposure before entering school, even if


Spanish is the only language spoken in the home. The nature of the community and the large amount of English
input that the children receive within the school system
could account for rapid acquisition of English upon entering preschool. Parent report was also used to determine
the length of exposure to each language for all bilingual
speakers. Each child was determined to have had mostly
Spanish input and output in the home up to age 3;0, after
which English exposure began at preschool, or they received exposure to both languages in the home from birth.
Thus, all bilingual children were categorized as early
bilinguals (Genesee, Paradis, & Crago, 2004).
Monolingual participants. Demographic characteristics of the monolingual Spanish and monolingual English
participants are found in Table 3. Data from 8 monolingual
Spanish speakers were collected in Quertaro, Mexico,
and data from 8 monolingual English speakers were
collected in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Children in
each monolingual group had no input or output in any
language other than their native language. To be included in the study, the monolingual childrens proficiency rating (obtained through parent report) in
their language had to be either 3 or 4. Monolingual
children were included in this study in order to obtain
developmental information for each language and to
compare the accuracy of sound production and the substitution patterns between monolingual and bilingual
speakers.

Data Collection
Both single word and connected speech samples
were collected from each child for analysis. Single word

samples were used for phonological analyses. Connected


speech samples were used to provide background information on the childrens language skills. If a sound
production was not found in the single word sample, connected speech aided in the phonetic inventory analysis. Each bilingual child was recorded in Spanish and
English, and each monolingual child was recorded in
his or her respective language.
The phonology subtest of the Bilingual English Spanish Assessment (BESA; Pea, Gutirrez-Clellen, Iglesias,
Goldstein, & Bedore, 2005), was used to elicit sounds
in single words. The assessment contains 31 separate
target items for English and 28 separate target items
for Spanish. This assessment has been used previously
with bilingual children (e.g., Goldstein & Washington,
2001; Goldstein et al., 2005). Each target item was elicited via a spontaneous label made in reference to a
photograph. If the child did not label the photograph
spontaneously, the function of the item was provided to
the child. If the child still did not label the item, delayed
imitation was used because of the negligible difference
between spontaneous and imitative forms (Goldstein,
Fabiano, & Iglesias, 2004).
A pre-determined set of toys whose names targeted
English and Spanish consonant sounds was used to elicit
a conversational speech sample from each bilingual child
in English and Spanish and from each monolingual child
in English or Spanish. Each single word and connected
speech sample was recorded using The Presenter wireless lapel microphone, transmitter (Model T1-CL), and
receiver (Model T3-CL; Shure, Inc., Niles, IL) with input
into a Dell Latitude 100L computer using a Creative
Labs Sound Blaster Audigy 2-Z5, 24-bit sound card.

Table 3. Demographic data on monolingual participants.


Child ID
S 01
S 02
S 03
S 04
S 05
S 06
S 07
S 08
E 01
E 02
E 03
E 04
E 05
E 06
E 07
E 08

166

CA

Language

Gender

Mothers education

Parent concern

Clinician concern

4;0
3;3
3;3
3;10
3;2
3;6
3;4
3;4
3;3
3;1
3;11
3;8
3;0
3;0
3;1
3;7

Spanish
Spanish
Spanish
Spanish
Spanish
Spanish
Spanish
Spanish
English
English
English
English
English
English
English
English

Male
Male
Male
Male
Female
Female
Female
Male
Female
Female
Female
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male

Some high school


Masters degree
High school diploma
Some high school
Bachelors degree
Masters degree
Some high school
Some high school
Masters degree
Medical degree
Masters degree
High school diploma
Bachelors degree
Bachelors degree
Bachelors degree
Masters degree

No
No
No
No
No
No
No
No
No
No
No
No
No
No
No
No

No
No
No
No
No
No
No
No
No
No
No
No
No
No
No
No

Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research Vol. 53 160178 February 2010

Analyses
Data from the single word samples were phonetically transcribed with diacritics using the International
Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). Dialectal features of Puerto
Rican, Mexican, and Dominican Spanish (e.g., in Spanish, [x] for /r/ in perro) and English (e.g., [n] for /:/ in
going) consonants were taken into account and were
not scored as errors.

Reliability of Transcription
Single word samples. Reliability of transcription
was performed on the single word samples between two
primary transcribers (bilingual graduate students in
speech-language pathology [SLP] at Temple University,
Philadelphia, Pennsylvana) and the first author of this
study, who is an EnglishSpanish bilingual. Both the
first author and the bilingual graduate students were
trained in narrow transcription using the IPA. The two
bilingual graduate students phonetically transcribed all
of the single word samples. The first author then performed interjudge reliability on those transcriptions; in
addition, the original transcribers performed intrajudge
reliability on their own transcriptions. Since three judges
were involved in the reliability process, when a disagreement occurred between two of the judges, the third judge
was called in to make a decision. The decisions made by
the third judge were accepted in the final transcriptions.
Intrajudge and interjudge reliability of IPA narrow transcription was calculated for 100% of the Spanish and
English target words on the single word assessment for
all of the children.
For the Spanish monolingual group, reliability
reached 99.16% and 98.74% for intra- and interjudge
reliability, respectively, for the single word samples. For
the English monolingual group, reliability reached 98.7%
and 96.94% for intra- and interjudge reliability, respectively. For the Spanish samples of the bilingual children, reliability reached 99.14% and 97.48% for intra- and
interjudge reliability, respectively. Finally, for the English samples of the bilingual children, reliability reached
98.61% and 95.67% for intra- and interjudge reliability,
respectively.

Because the reliability rates were higher than those


reported in similar studies, we conducted an additional
reliability check on 10% of the sample to be certain that
our estimates were correct. A bilingual SpanishEnglish
speaking student in SLP at San Diego State University
(who was unfamiliar with this particular single word
probe and who was trained in IPA narrow transcription)
performed interjudge reliability. Reliability of transcription performed by this additional judge reached 98.44%
for the monolingual Spanish samples (10 disagreements
out of 640 opportunities), 99.54% for the monolingual
English samples (3 disagreements out of 651 opportunities), 98.59% for the Spanish productions of bilinguals
(9 disagreements out of 634 opportunities), and 98.47%
for the English productions of bilinguals (10 disagreements out of 650 opportunities).
Connected speech samples. The connected speech
samples were used to provide background information
on each childs language skills and to obtain three oral
language measures: mean length of utterance in morphemes (MLUm); number of different words (NDW),
and total number of utterances (TNU; see Table 4). Data
from the connected speech samples were transcribed orthographically into communication units (C-units). The
language transcripts were analyzed using the Systematic Analysis of Language Transcripts (SALT [Beta V9
program]; Miller & Iglesias, 2006) to obtain grammaticality measures. Interjudge reliability of orthographic
transcription was performed between a bilingual SLP
graduate student and the first author. Interjudge reliability was calculated on 100% of the utterances in the
English and Spanish connected speech samples for all
children. Reliability of transcription reached 93.67% for
the monolingual Spanish speakers, 98.27% for the monolingual English speakers, 98.06% for the Spanish productions of bilinguals, and 96.39% for the English productions
of bilinguals.
The results from analyses examining the childrens
connected speech samples showed that their oral language skills were commensurate with published norms
for monolingual English (Bland-Stewart & Fitzgerald,
2001) and monolingual Spanish speakers (Bedore, 2005).
The results are also commensurate with norms accompanying the Bilingual SpanishEnglish SALT (Miller &

Table 4. Means and standard deviations for grammatical characteristics of monolingual and bilingual children.
Language Groups

Mean length of
utterance (MLUm)

Number of different
words (NDW)

Total number of
utterances (TNU)

Monolingual Spanish speakers


Spanish productions of bilinguals
Monolingual English speakers
English productions of bilinguals

2.38 (SD = 0.61)


2.25 (SD = 0.62)
3.57 (SD = 0.75)
2.70 (SD = 0.91)

91.25 (SD = 41.75)


103.75 (SD = 46.27)
221.62 (SD = 58.49)
123.62 (SD = 58.47)

100.37 (SD = 53.07)


135.25 (SD = 65.13)
216 (SD = 68.27)
144.12 (SD = 61.09)

Fabiano-Smith et al.: Phonological Acquisition in Bilingual Children

167

Iglesias, 2006) program for both Spanish and English


productions of the bilingual children. All children scored in
the typical range for grammatical characteristics for their
age and language status (i.e., monolingual or bilingual).

Phonetic Analyses
Analyses of the single word samples for all three
groupsmonolingual Spanish-speakers, monolingual
English speakers, and bilingual SpanishEnglish
speakerswere performed using Logical International
Phonetic Programs (LIPP; Oller & Delgado, 2000) to determine the phonological skills of each child. A phonetic
analysis was performed on the childrens productions of
segments overall. Specifically, phonetic inventories were
constructed to determine what sounds each child had
acquired. If a child produced a particular sound two or
more times, regardless of whether it occurred as a correct production in a word or as a substitute in another
word, that child was said to possess that sound in his or
her inventory (Elbert & Gierut, 1986). If a target did not
occur at least twice, that sound was not included as part
of the childs inventory.
A substitution error analysis was performed on the
productions of the bilingual speakers to determine what
sounds the children were using as substitutes. Given our
interest in transfer, if bilingual children used languagespecific sounds in the productions of their other language,
those substitutions were not counted as errors. To that
end, two analyses were completed (see next paragraph).
Context-free inventories were obtained from LIPP
for each child, in each language. Each sound target, the
number of times that target occurred, and the sounds
produced for that target were listed for each inventory.
Both correct productions and substitution errors were
recorded. First, an analysis determining the quantity
(i.e., frequency) of phonological transfer was completed.
Instances of phonological transfer were recorded when
an unshared, or language-specific, sound appeared in
the other language (e.g., the Spanish /r/ substituting for
the English liquid /a/ in an English production) or when
a fine phonetic distinction specific to one language was
found in the production of the other language (e.g., aspiration of /p/ in a Spanish production). Next, an analysis
examining the quality (i.e., type) of transfer was performed. Instances of transfer were examined for (a) overall patterns or preferences that the children were using
(i.e., whether they used certain language-specific sounds
as substitutes and not others), (b) the language-specific
sounds used as substitutes, and (c) the direction of transfer (i.e., Spanish into English or vice versa).

Relational Analyses
Overall accuracy and accuracy by manner class.
Through LIPP, measures of overall percentage of
168

consonants correct (PCC; Shriberg, Austin, Lewis,


McSweeney, & Wilson, 1997) and PCC for each manner
class were obtained. The following manner classes were
analyzed: stops, nasals, fricatives, affricates, liquids, glides,
flap (Spanish only), and trill (Spanish only). Overall accuracy and accuracy of sounds organized by manner class
were calculated for each language group (i.e., bilingual
Spanish productions, bilingual English productions, monolingual Spanish productions, and monolingual English
productions) to determine if bilingual children were
demonstrating evidence of deceleration and/or a variation of acceleration.
Accuracy of shared and unshared sounds. A separate
analysis was performed to examine accuracy of shared
and unshared sounds. For this analysis, the LIPP output
of accuracy for each individual sound was organized into
shared and unshared categories for English and Spanish. Mean accuracy and standard deviations were then
calculated for these categories. The productions of both
bilinguals and monolinguals were analyzed in the same
way to determine if differential accuracy between shared
and unshared sounds was (a) characteristic of phonological skills in bilinguals or (b) characteristic of all childrens phonological skills, regardless of language status
(i.e., bilingual or monolingual).
For these analyses, shared and unshared sounds
were categorized at the phonemic rather than phonetic
level, as described previously in the section on phonetic
similarity (Flege, 1981, 1987). To determine if the difference between the accuracy of shared and unshared sounds
was significant, a nonparametric MannWhitney test
(Mann & Whitney, 1947) was performed for each of the
three groups of speakers using the following related
samples: (a) PCC of shared sounds and (b) PCC of unshared sounds. These analyses were performed on English and Spanish samples separately.

Analysis of Frequency
A mixed-effects regression analysis was performed
to determine if the frequency of occurrence of sounds in
each language had predictive capability on the accuracy
of shared sounds. This analysis was performed separately
on English and Spanish data. The first step in this series of analyses was to obtain descriptive information for
each participant, thus means and standard deviations for
PCC were obtained. A nonparametric alternative to the
analysis of variance (ANOVA), the KruskalWallis test
(Kruskal & Wallis, 1952; and a post hoc Tamahane T2, if
necessary), examining PCC by participant was then
performed to determine if the data from all 8 bilingual
participants were similar and could be collapsed. Frequency of occurrence values were taken from Shriberg
and Kent (1995) for English and Wilson (1984) for Spanish, which were used as the frequency measure in the

Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research Vol. 53 160178 February 2010

statistical analyses. The term frequency here refers to


token frequency, or the number of times the sound occurs
in adult productions, representing the childrens input.
The studies from which our frequency values were obtained assigned percent occurrence values to each sound
to represent that sounds frequency in the language. For
example, /s/ was assigned a frequency value of 7.88 in
English and a value of 16.69 in Spanish. The higher the
value, the more frequent the sound in that language.
Finally, to determine if frequency is a significant predictor of PCC, a general model was used to analyze the
data through a univariate ANOVA. Because the data for
these analyses were taken from the single word test, limited opportunities were available for some low-frequency
sounds (e.g., /8/ and /^/). Therefore, the data were analyzed in the mixed model while restricting the analyses to
only sounds that had six or more opportunities for production. High-frequency and low-frequency sounds were
equally represented in the analysis. English frequency
values ranged from 3.07 to 11.49 (x = 7.30, SD = 3.08), and
Spanish frequency values ranged from 3.85 to 16.69 (x =
9.85, SD = 4.51).

The outcome measure was PCC at the sound level.


Frequency was the independent measure, and participant was the random effect variable. The model took
into account the correlations within each participant.
Model assumptions were checked, and no transformations were necessary. By taking into consideration the
relationships between all of the variables, the predictive
capability of frequency of occurrence of sounds on the accuracy of shared sounds can be interpreted more accurately than with a single correlation.

Results

Phonetic Analyses
Consonant inventories. Results of the analysis examining consonant inventories can be found in Table 5.
The independent analysis showed that all bilingual children demonstrated phonetic inventories typical of their
chronological age. Many of the bilingual children did
not produce later-developing Spanish sounds such as the
flap, trill, and spirant [8], which is typical for monolingual

Table 5. Sounds not included in the phonetic inventories of the children.


Child ID

S 06
S 07
E 01
E 02
E 03
E 04
E 05
E 06
E 07
E 08

Produced only once

Not produced at all

Monolingual Spanish speakers


/, x/
/g, , r/
Monolingual English speakers
/8/
/v/
/q/

/q/
/8/
/S/
/8, u/
/q, 8, a/
/8, u/
/q, 8/
/q/

Bilingual speakers: Spanish productions


B 02
B 03
B 04
B 05
B 06
B 07
B 08
B 01
B 02
B 03
B 04
B 05
B 06
B 07
B 08

/x/, [8, S], clusters


/x/, [8], /r/
/r/
/r/
[8], /r/
[8], /R, r/

//, [b], [S]


[S]
//
/x/
[b]
//, /r/
Bilingual speakers: English productions
/^, v, z, 8, j/
/q, 8, u/
/q, u, 8, :/
/z, u/
/S, u/
/S, u/
/j/

/:/

/8, v/
/8, v/
/v/
/q/
/q, z, 8/

Fabiano-Smith et al.: Phonological Acquisition in Bilingual Children

169

Table 6. Instances of transfer in the productions of bilingual SpanishEnglish speaking children.


Child ID
B 06

B 08

Language context

Target

Production

Substitute used

Number of occurrences

Spanish
Spanish
English
English
English
Spanish
Spanish
English

/negRo/
/bisikleta/
/thelfon/
/kha/
/thost/
/seoR/
/gajeta/
/kha/

[negao]
[bikisikleqa]
[t=elfon]
[k=a]
[t=ost]
[toR]
[gaZeZa]
[k=a]

[a]
[q]
Unaspirated voiceless stop
Unaspirated voiceless stop
Unaspirated voiceless stop
[]
[Z]
Unaspirated voiceless stop

1
1
1
1
1
1
2
1

TOTAL

Spanish speakers of this age (Acevedo, 1993). In English,


the bilingual group followed a similar pattern as that
of monolingual English speakers, as many did not produce later-developing sounds such as /q/ and /8/ (Shriberg,
1993).
Transfer. Results of the analysis examining transfer
can be found in Table 6. Two of the 8 bilingual children
(25%) produced instances of transfer (nine instances
between the 2 children). They tended to modify low-level
phonetic rules such as the production of an English aspirated stop phoneme as unaspirated (e.g., / k hA / Y
[ k=A]), as is the rule in Spanish.

Consonant Accuracy
Results of the analyses examining consonant accuracy can be found in Tables 7 and 8. Results showed that
mean overall PCC was greater than 70% for all groups.
Overall accuracy and accuracy by manner class. The
results for the analysis examining PCC by manner class
can be found in Table 7. To determine if bilingual children demonstrated deceleration, acceleration, and /or a

variation of acceleration, a MannWhitney test was performed using overall PCC as the dependent measure.
Language group (i.e., monolingual vs. bilingual) served
as the independent measure. Results indicated that monolingual children were significantly more accurate than
bilingual children for Spanish (z = 1.99, p = .046) but
not for English (z = 1.73, p = .083). These findings are
suggestive of deceleration in the Spanish productions of
bilinguals. Subsequently, the accuracy of the bilingual
children was compared with the accuracy of monolingual
children from a low SES to eliminate any potential confounds (see Figure 1). It was determined that consonant
accuracy was lower in Spanish for all bilingual children
compared with the most accurate monolingual Spanishspeaking child from a low SES background. Furthermore,
consonant accuracy was lower for 5 of the 8 bilingual
children in English compared with the most accurate
monolingual English-speaking child from a low SES background. Overall, bilingual children demonstrated lower
consonant accuracy than their monolingual peers from low
SES backgrounds, suggesting deceleration in bilingual
acquisition (Paradis & Genesee, 1996).

Table 7. Means and standard deviations for percentage of consonants correct (PCC) by manner class.
Language
Groups
Monolingual
Spanish
speakers
Monolingual
English
speakers
Spanish
productions
of bilingual
speakers
English
productions
of bilingual
speakers

170

Stops

Nasals

Fricatives

Affricates

Liquids

82.54
(SD = 7.53)

91.80
(SD = 7.8)

79.75
(SD = 9.1)

81.25
(SD = 37.2)

68.75
(SD = 29.88)

100
(SD = 0)

88.35
(SD = 6.23)

91.91
(SD = 6.98)

84.43
(SD = 12.85)

75
(SD = 34.5)

70.79
(SD = 25.64)

87.5
(SD = 24.8)

N/A

77.40
(SD = 9.51)

94.44
(SD = 8.39)

66.47
(SD = 13.22)

100
(SD = 0)

66.98
(SD = 25.13)

81.25
(SD = 21.67)

25.09
(SD = 18.9)

73.31
(SD = 14.05)

82.35
(SD = 13.33)

63.45
(SD = 16.29)

79.16
(SD = 24.8)

67.5
(SD = 23.45)

83.33
(SD = 17.81)

N/A

Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research Vol. 53 160178 February 2010

Glides

Flap

33.33
(SD = 17.81)

Trill

37.5
(SD = 34.21)

N/A

4.1
(SD = 11.78)

N/A

Table 8. Overall PCC, and PCC for accuracy of shared and unshared sounds.*
Monolingual Spanish speakers
Child ID

Overall PCC

PCC shared

PCC unshared

S 01
S 02
S 03
S 04
S 05
S 06
S 07
S 08
M (SD)

78.16
73.26
68.24
82.35
68.24
80.0
72.94
69.51
75.58 (5.49)

84.21
82.0
69.64
84.21
82.45
91.37
82.45
78.18
81.69 (6.15)

65.21
39.13
56.52
73.91
30.43
47.82
47.82
47.82
51.08 (13.89)

Monolingual English speakers


Child ID

Overall PCC

PCC shared

PCC unshared

E 01
E 02
E 03
E 04
E 05
E 06
E 07
E 08
M (SD)

77.14
76.42
98.11
75.47
84.76
81.90
93.33
85.71
84.10 (8.20)

87.83
80.24
100
82.71
83.75
83.75
93.75
90.00
87.75 (6.60)

75.00
80.00
55.00
90.00
90.00
95.00
50.00
68.18
75.39 (16.67)

Bilingual speakers (Spanish PCC data)


Child ID

Overall PCCSpanish

PCC sharedSpanish

PCC unsharedSpanish

B 01
B 02
B 03
B 04
B 05
B 06
B 07
B 08
M (SD)

76.54
66.27
58.14
69.77
69.77
69.41
59.3
56.98
65.77 (6.95)

86.79
75.00
66.66
84.74
77.96
77.58
72.41
66.10
75.90 (7.54)

47.82
33.33
23.80
31.81
40.90
50.00
26.08
31.81
35.69 (9.62)

Bilingual speakers (English PCC data)


Child ID

Overall PCCEnglish

PCC sharedEnglish

PCC unsharedEnglish

B 01
B 02
B 03
B 04
B 05
B 06
B 07
B 08
M (SD)

72.38
57.55
63.81
81.90
86.67
88.57
70.48
57.14
72.31 (12.45)

68.75
70.00
68.75
87.5
90.00
92.50
77.5
62.5
77.18 (11.43)

85.00
36.36
50.00
70.00
75.00
85.00
50.00
45.00
62.04 (18.99)

*The mixed effects regression analysis utilized data from those sounds with six or more opportunities for production.
This table reflects data for all sounds.

Fabiano-Smith et al.: Phonological Acquisition in Bilingual Children

171

Figure 1. Comparison of bilingual children to low socioeconomic status (SES) monolingual children on
consonant accuracy.*

*Consonant accuracy for each participant is plotted by Child ID. For bilingual children, the inclusion of E
in the Child ID indicates an English production, and the inclusion of S indicates a Spanish production.

To determine if monolingual and bilingual children


differed in the same way on the accuracy of manner
classes, a MannWhitney test was performed for each
manner class, comparing bilingual to monolingual productions. For Spanish, monolinguals demonstrated significantly higher accuracy than bilingual children on the
following manner classes: trill (z = 2.43, p = .015), fricatives (z = 1.99, p = .046), and glides (z = 2.21, p = .027).
For English, monolinguals demonstrated significantly
higher accuracy than bilingual children on stops (z =
2.05, p = .04) and fricatives (z = 2.62, p = .00) only.
Overall, some evidence was found for deceleration in
the bilinguals; however, in general, monolingual and
bilingual children differed only on a minority of manner classes.
Accuracy of shared and unshared sounds. The distinction between accuracy on shared and unshared sounds
was subsequently examined in a separate analysis, the
results of which can be found in Table 8. To determine if
the difference between shared and unshared sound production was significantly different within each language
group, a Wilcoxon signed ranks test and effect size analysis (Cohen, 1988) were performed for each of the four
separate sets of data. Effect sizes were calculated using
Cohens d with interpretation using the following guidelines extant in the SLP literature (e.g., Fiestas & Pea,
2004; 00.10 = negligible; 0.100.25 = small; 0.250.50 =
moderate; 0.500.80 = large; 0.801.00+ = very large).
172

For the monolingual Spanish group, a significant


difference was found between PCC of shared and unshared sounds (z = 2.52, p = .012) with a very large effect size (d = 2.86) indicating a large difference between
the mean PCC of shared and unshared sounds. A significant difference was also found for the Spanish of bilinguals between PCC of shared and unshared sounds
(z = 2.52, p = .012) with a very large effect size (d = 4.65).
For the monolingual English group, no significant difference was found between PCC of shared and unshared
sounds (z = 1.82, p = .069) with a very large effect size
(d = 0.97). For the English of bilinguals, however, a significant difference was found between PCC of shared
and unshared sounds (z = 2.10, p = .035) with a very
large effect size (d = 0.96). Overall, bilingual children
demonstrated significantly higher accuracy on shared
sounds than on unshared sounds; however, so did monolingual Spanish-speaking children. Upon further analysis, significant differential accuracy in the monolingual
Spanish-speaking group was the result of very low accuracy on flap (33.33%) and trill (37.5%) only.

Frequency
Because bilinguals (and the monolingual Spanishspeakers) demonstrated significantly higher accuracy on
shared sounds than on unshared sounds, the following
analyses were performed to determine if the complexity

Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research Vol. 53 160178 February 2010

parameter of frequency of occurrence of sounds in each


language was motivating high accuracy of shared sounds.
These analyses were performed separately on the English
and Spanish data.
Spanish productions. The KruskalWallis test performed on PCC by participant yielded a nonsignificant
difference (c2 = 6.55, p = .477, df = 7), indicating that the
participants were not significantly different from one
another on PCC. In order to assess whether frequency
was a significant predictor of PCC, a general linear mixed
model was used with participant as a random effect and
frequency as a fixed effect. The results of this analysis indicated that neither frequency, F(5, 27) = 1.32, p = .284,
nor participant, F(7, 27) = 1.40, p = .243, was a significant
predictor of accuracy. Thus, frequency of occurrence of
sounds in Spanish was not a significant predictor of PCC
in the Spanish productions of bilingual children.
English productions. The KruskalWallis test performed on PCC by participant yielded a significant difference between PCC and participant (c2 = 19.68, p =
.006, df = 7). Because the nonparametric Kruskal
Wallis does not have a post hoc test associated with it,
a one-way ANOVA and post hoc test used for unequal
variancesthe Tamahane T2was used to examine significant differences between participants on PCC. The
Tamahane T2 test indicated that participants B07 and
B08 differed significantly on PCC ( p = .027). Further
analysis of these 2 participants indicated that child B07
demonstrated the highest percent accuracy on production of shared sounds (92.5%), and B08 demonstrated the
lowest percent accuracy on production of shared sounds
(62.5%). Both children demonstrated typical phonological
characteristics for English-speaking 3-year-olds; thus,
data from all 8 children were used for analysis.
To assess whether frequency of occurrence of sounds
was a significant predictor of PCC, a general linear mixed
model was used with participant as a random effect and
frequency of occurrence as a fixed factor. As in the Spanish analysis, the data were analyzed in the mixed model
while restricting the analysis to only those sounds that
had six or more opportunities for production. Frequency
of occurrence of sounds was not found to be a significant
predictor of accuracy, F(3, 21) = 1.68, p = .200; however,
participant was found to be a significant predictor of accuracy, F(7, 21) = 3.15, p = .019. Therefore, frequency of
occurrence of sounds in English did not predict high
accuracy of shared sounds in the English productions of
bilinguals. The significance of participant was driven by
the difference in PCC between the child with the highest
PCC (Participant B07) and the child with the lowest PCC
(Participant B08). It should be noted, however, that the
PCC for these children still fell into the typical range for
3-year-olds.

Discussion
The purpose of this study was to examine how interaction between the two languages of bilinguals contributes to bilingual phonological acquisition. It was
predicted that bilingual children would demonstrate interaction between their two phonological systems, thus
supporting the hypotheses of transfer, deceleration, acceleration (Paradis & Genesee, 1996), and /or a variation
of the hypothesis of acceleration. Evidence for these hypotheses was examined through (a) transfer, (b) overall consonant accuracy and accuracy by manner class,
(c) differential accuracy on the production of shared
and unshared sounds, and (d) the predictive capability
of frequency of occurrence of sounds in each language
on the accuracy of shared sounds.

Transfer
Overall, 25% of the bilingual children demonstrated
a low frequency of bi-directional transfer. These results
demonstrate that for the most part, bilingual children
maintain separation between their two phonological systems. Thus, frequency of transfer provided little evidence for interaction between the bilingual childrens
two languages. It seems that these instances of transfer
are not random errors, however. The 2 bilingual children
who demonstrated transfer exhibited systematic modification of low-level phonetic characteristics. Specifically, stop consonants were deaspirated in some English
productions. Thus, the bilingual children maintained
separation for the majority of their productions, and
between-language interaction at this level is rare, supporting Paradis and Genesee (1996).
This finding also informs Fleges (1981) notion of
phonetic similarity in that bilingual children, at times,
abandon fine phonetic distinctions and use phonetically
similar sounds in both languages. For example, the shared
stops /k/ and /t/ were sometimes produced without aspiration in English, demonstrating that bilingual children
can use the Spanish stops /k/ and /t/ without sacrificing
meaning in their English productions. This finding supports Flege (1980), who states, [L2] learners frequently
produce a range of different phonetic variants (including
the correct realization) for a single L2 phoneme (p. 117).

Deceleration
The deceleration hypothesis predicts that the rate
of phonological development in bilingual children is
slower than that of monolingual children. Overall consonant accuracy in Spanish was significantly higher in
monolinguals than in bilinguals; however, there was
no significant difference on that construct in English
Fabiano-Smith et al.: Phonological Acquisition in Bilingual Children

173

between bilingual and monolingual children. When examined by manner class, bilinguals and monolinguals
differed in accuracy on only a few manner classes. Monolingual Spanish speakers were significantly more accurate than bilingual children on their productions of the
trill, fricatives, and glides. Monolingual English-speaking
children demonstrated significantly higher accuracy than
bilingual children on stops and fricatives. Therefore, these
results provide some evidence for Paradis and Genesees
(1996) hypothesis of deceleration. Interestingly, the deceleration that occurred was not identical across the two
languages. Specifically, the bilinguals showed a slower
rate of acquisition for glides in Spanish but not in English when compared with monolinguals. Similarly, bilinguals showed a slower rate of acquisition for stops
only in English, yet they showed a slower rate of acquisition for fricatives in both languages. It appears
that between the ages of 3;0 and 4;0, some, but not all,
phonological skills in bilingual children are acquired at
a slightly slower rate than for monolingual children of
the same age. It is important to note that these findings
were independent of the influence of SES (see Figure 1).
The majority of bilingual children demonstrated lower
consonant accuracy in both languages than their monolingual peers from low SES backgrounds.
It is important to point out, however, that the bilingual children in the present study performed within
the typical range for their chronological age, even though
they demonstrated lower accuracy than the monolinguals. In Spanish, 5 of the 8 bilingual children demonstrated overall consonant accuracy greater than 66%.
Jimnez (1987) found that monolingual Spanish-speaking
children between the ages of 3;0 and 4;0 produce about
half of their consonants accurately. In English, 5 of the
8 bilingual children demonstrated overall consonant accuracy greater than 70%, classifying them in the typical
range for monolingual English speakers their age (Shriberg
& Kwiatkowski, 1982). In addition, sounds produced in
error by these bilingual participants were age appropriate. In their Spanish productions, these bilingual children demonstrated errors on flap and trill, errors also
common in monolingual Spanish-speaking preschoolers
(Acevedo, 1993). In English, these bilingual children
demonstrated low accuracy on fricatives, which is also
common among monolinguals of the same age (BaumanWaengler, 2008). These findings are consistent with previous studies examining bilingual language acquisition
reporting that bilingual children perform within the typical range of age-matched monolinguals for grammatical
development (e.g., DeHouwer, 1990; Nicoladis, 1994;
Padilla & Liebman, 1975). Overall, lower accuracy in bilingual production does not indicate delayed or disordered
acquisition in a clinical sense; rather, at some points in
development, bilingual children may exhibit a slower rate

174

of acquisition; however, that rate still falls within the normal range for age-matched monolingual children.

Acceleration
The hypothesis of acceleration posits that certain
properties in the grammar of bilingual children emerge
at a faster rate than for monolingual children of the same
age. The results of this study did not provide evidence for
Paradis and Genesees (1996) hypothesis of acceleration
that is, these bilinguals did not demonstrate a faster rate
of acquisition when compared with monolinguals on overall accuracy or accuracy by manner class. The findings
of this study support previous studies that have found
evidence of a slower rate of acquisition for bilingual children (Gildersleeve-Neumann et al., 2008; Swain, 1972;
Vihman, 1982) and those that have found bilinguals
to demonstrate a rate of acquisition within the normal
range for monolinguals (Goldstein et al., 2005; Goldstein
& Washington, 2001) but not those that have found
bilingual children to be acquiring skills at a faster rate
than their monolingual peers (Kehoe et al., 2001; Lle
et al., 2003).
The bilingual children in the present study did not
demonstrate evidence of acceleration according to its
strict definition. That is, they did not demonstrate a faster
rate of acquisition than that of their monolingual peers;
rather, they demonstrated phonological skills that fall
within the typical range for their monolingual peers. It is
possible that this finding is evidence of a variation of the
acceleration hypothesis. Perhaps interaction between
the two languages of the bilingual child results in a system in which one language is aiding in acquisition of the
other, allowing bilingual children to acquire phonological
skills that fall within the normal range for monolinguals
in both languages. It is also possible that deceleration and
acceleration are occurring simultaneously. More specifically, these bilingual children demonstrated lower accuracy overall than monolingual children; however, these
bilingual children demonstrated accuracy that was still
within the typical range for that of monolinguals. Therefore, bilingual phonological development could be slower
than that of monolingual children (i.e., deceleration) because of the relative load of two inputs; however, interaction between the two phonological systems could
counteract that load, maintaining a similar level of phonological skill (i.e., a type of acceleration) in both languages in comparison to monolinguals.

Phonetic Similarity and Shared Sounds


It was hypothesized in the present study that bilingual children might be using phonetically similar
sounds (i.e., shared sounds) between their two languages
to aid in the rate of acquisition. This phonetic similarity

Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research Vol. 53 160178 February 2010

between languages could help bilingual children maintain phonological skills that fall within the normal range
for their monolingual peers in both languages, possibly
leading to a variation of the acceleration hypothesis.
That is, properties of one language could possibly aid in
the rate of acquisition of the other language.
In the Spanish and English productions of the bilingual group, a significant difference was found between
the accuracy of shared and unshared sounds (with a large
effect size), thus appearing to support our hypothesis.
However, a significant difference was found for the accuracy of shared and unshared sounds in the monolingual Spanish group as well. Further examination of
the data within the Spanish monolingual group and the
Spanish productions of the bilingual group indicated
that the accuracy of these bilinguals did, in fact, differ
from those of monolingualsbut not in the way that
was expected.
First, the monolingual Spanish-speaking group exhibited a higher standard deviation for PCC of unshared
sounds than did the bilingual children, indicating variation in accuracy of production of unshared sounds.
Bilingual speakers, however, consistently demonstrated
low accuracy on unshared sounds. That is, bilingual children exhibited low accuracy on all unshared sounds, and
this pattern was observed across children. Second, the
large difference exhibited by the monolingual Spanishspeaking group between accuracy on shared and unshared
sounds was due to performance on two specific sounds,
/R/ and /r/. The range of percent accuracy for unshared
sounds in the monolingual Spanish-speaking group was
between 30% and 73%. The range of percent accuracy
for unshared sounds in the Spanish productions of bilinguals was between 23% and 50%, which is considerably lower. The bilingual group demonstrated somewhat
equal accuracy across unshared sounds in their Spanish
and English productions, whereas the monolingual speakers demonstrated difficulties with specific unshared
sounds. It should be noted, however, that /R/ and /r/ are
frequently occurring sounds in Spanish. Therefore, it is
possible that low accuracy on these two sounds contributes to the significant effects in the unshared group
for both bilinguals and monolinguals in Spanish. However, it was observed in this study that frequency did not
predict sound accuracy; thus, this issue should be investigated further in future studies.
In addition to the findings from the productions of
the monolingual Spanish speakers, large effect sizes were
found between shared and unshared sounds for both bilinguals and monolinguals, calling into question if differential accuracy of shared and unshared sounds is
evidence of interaction between the two languages of
bilinguals or if monolingual children also demonstrate
this pattern. However, further analysis of shared and

unshared sounds uncovered more differences between


monolingual and bilingual speakers. First, these bilingual children demonstrated a statistically significant
difference between accuracy of shared and unshared
sounds in both languages, and this difference was not statistically significant for monolingual English-speaking
children. Second, when mean percent accuracy of shared
sounds was compared across bilinguals (75.9% for Spanish; 77.18% for English) and monolinguals (81.69% for
Spanish; 87.75% for English), there was an accuracy difference between bilinguals and monolinguals of 10.6%
or less for both languages. More specifically, bilingual
children might produce shared sounds with less accuracy
than monolingual children, but they are within 10 percentage points of their monolingual peers in both languages. Finally, the standard deviation for bilingual
productions on the accuracy of shared sounds is much
smaller (SD = 7.54 for Spanish; SD = 11.43 for English)
than for unshared sounds (SD = 9.62 for Spanish; SD =
18.99 for English), indicating that there is less variation in the production of shared sounds than unshared
sounds, possibly due to phonetic similarity (Flege, 1981).

Frequency
It was predicted that frequency of occurrence of
sounds in each language might predict high accuracy
of shared sounds. If frequency had been found to predict high accuracy of shared sounds, high accuracy of
shared sounds would not provide evidence for betweenlanguage interaction (Paradis & Genesee, 1996). High
accuracy of shared sounds, therefore, could not be attributed exclusively to interaction between the bilingual
childs two languages.
Results showed that frequency did not predict the
accuracy of shared sounds. This finding is contrary to
previous studies that have found that frequently occurring sounds are produced with higher accuracy than
sounds that are significantly less frequent (e.g., Kirk &
Demuth, 2003). It is possible that the parameter of frequency is not the driving force behind high accuracy of
shared sounds, but other parameters of complexity, yet
to be studied, influence sound accuracy. It is also possible, as hypothesized in the present study, that high
accuracy of shared sounds is a result of interaction between the two language systems of bilingual children.

Limitations and Future Directions


These results indicate that it is possible to examine
and compare phonological structures within the bilingual
child for evidence of interaction between his or her two
languages. A variation of the hypothesis of acceleration
could possibly be added to complement Paradis and

Fabiano-Smith et al.: Phonological Acquisition in Bilingual Children

175

Genesees (1996) definition of this hypothesis as an additional way to provide evidence for how bilingual children acquire two languages. It is also possible that
phonetically similar sounds are not the only phonological construct that bilingual children categorize as shared
between their two languages. It is possible that bilingual
children treat the factors related to linguistic complexity,
or rules, of each language in much the same way. The
findings from the present study provide some evidence
for the investigation of factors such as these in future
research.
The major limitation of the present study is the relatively small number of participants included for statistical analysis. A relatively small number of participants
reduces power; thus, statistical outcomes are susceptible to Type II error. There is inherent difficulty in
matching bilingual participants on chronological age,
input in each language, and output in each language as
well as in assessing 3-year-old bilingual children (depending on the ambient language environment) that
can produce language samples in both of their languages.
In an attempt to create a homogeneous sample out of a
heterogeneous population, the number of participants
included in the present study was relatively limited.
In future studies, it might be possible to use parameters of complexity to predict on which elements interaction and separation will be observed between a
bilingual childs two languages. Frequency of occurrence
of sounds in a language is often viewed as a factor related
to linguistic complexity, such that sounds that occur
frequently are viewed as less complex than those that
occur frequently (Greenberg, 1966; Trubetzkoy, 1939).
Because frequency was not found to be a predictor of
high accuracy of shared sounds, additional parameters
of complexity should be examined to determine at what
level between-language interaction is occurring in bilingual children.

Conclusion
Relatively little is known about how typically developing bilingual children acquire their phonological skills
and even less about if and how the two languages of
bilinguals interact. The findings of this study indicate
that although bilingual children demonstrate separation between their two phonological systems, those systems interact to aid in rate of acquisition. Although we
found that bilingual children demonstrated a slower rate
of acquisition than their monolingual peers on some measures (e.g., phonological accuracy), these skills in the
bilingual children were within the normal range of those
for monolingual children in both English and Spanish. A
similar rate of acquisition between bilinguals and monolinguals occurred as well (e.g., on phonetic inventories).
Finally, we found that sound frequency did not predict
176

accuracy of either phonetically similar sounds between


languages or phonetically dissimilar sounds specific to
Spanish or English. The findings on rate of acquisition
aid in our understanding of the interaction between
(a) the languages of bilingual children and (b) the developmental similarities and differences between monolingual and bilingual children.

Acknowledgments
We would like to express our gratitude to the children and
families who participated in this project, both in the United
States and Mexico. We thank Ferenc Bunta for assistance in
the selection of recording equipment; Alexandra Hanlon for
consultation on statistical analyses; and Jessica Barlow, Sonja
Pruitt, Skott Freedman, Aquiles Iglesias, Megan Dunn Davison,
and Ral Rojas for comments on earlier versions of the article.
We express deep appreciation to Donna Jackson Maldonado,
Rosa Patricia Brcenas Acosta, and Martha Beatrz Soto
Martnez at the Universidad Autnoma de Quertaro in
Mexico for their many efforts in the attainment of monolingual
participants. Finally, we thank the following students who
performed phonetic and orthographic transcription of the data
and participated in analyses of reliability: Jenny Lange,
Monica Krewson, Vanessa Gonzlez, Andrea Fisher, and
Roxanna Palma.

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DOI: 10.1044/1092-4388(2009/07-0064)
Contact author: Leah Fabiano-Smith, State University of
New York at New Paltz, Department of Communication
Disorders, 1 Hawk Drive, New Paltz, NY 12561-2440.
E-mail: fabianol@newpaltz.edu.

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