No AccessJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing ResearchResearch Article1 Oct 2002

Category-Generation Performance of Bilingual Children

The Influence of Condition, Category, and Language

    Research suggests that young children use a script-based slot-filler strategy to develop categories. Children are reported to develop a taxonomic strategy by about age 8. The purpose of this study was to examine how bilingual (Spanish-English) children used taxonomic versus slot-filler strategies in a category-generation task presented in each language. Results indicated that although younger bilingual children (M age=5;1) generated approximately equal numbers of items in both conditions, older bilingual children (M age=6;5) were beginning to demonstrate a taxonomic bias. Furthermore, although bilingual children tended to generate similar numbers of items in each language under the different conditions, comparisons between the two languages indicated that a large proportion (68.40%) of items was unique to either language.


    • Bruner, J. (1986). Actual minds: Possible worlds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univeristy Press.
    • Dalton, E. (1989). IDEA Oral Proficiency Language Test. Brea, CA: Ballard & Tighe.
    • Clark, E. (1993). The lexicon in acquisition. New York: Cambridge University Press.
    • Fenson, L., Dale, P. S., Reznick, J. S, Thal, D., Bates, E., Hartung, J. P., et al. (1993). The MacArthur Communicative Development Inventories: User's guide and technical manual. San Diego: Singular Publishing Group.
    • Golinkoff, R. M., Mervis, C. B., & Hirsh-Pasek, K. (1994). Early object labels: The case for a developmental lexical principles framework.Journal of Child Language, 21(1), 125–155.
    • Gutierrez-Clellen, V., & Kreiter, J. (in press). Understanding child bilingual acquisition using parent and teacher reports.Applied Psycholinguistics.
    • Jackson-Maldonado, D., & Bates, E. (1988). Inventario del Desarrollo de las Habilidades Comunicativas (Communicative Development Skills Inventory). San Diego: University of California, Center for Research on Language.
    • Kohnert, K., Bates, E., & Hernández, A. (1999). Balancing bilinguals: Lexical-semantic production and cognitive processing in children learning English and Spanish.Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 42, 1400–1413.
    • Krackow, E., & Gordon, P. (1998). Are lions and tigers substitutes or associates? Evidence against slot-filler accounts of children's early categorization.Child Development, 69, 347–354.
    • Lin, P., Schwanenflugel, P. J., & Wisenbaker, J. M. (1990). Category typicality, cultural familiarity, and the development of category knowledge.Developmental Psychology, 26, 805–813.
    • Lucariello, J., Kyratzis, A., & Nelson, K. (1992). Taxonomic knowledge: What kind and when?.Child Development, 63, 978–998.
    • Mandler, J. M., & Bauer, P. J. (1988). The cradle of categorization: Is the basic level basic?.Cognitive Development, 3, 247–264.
    • Markman, E. M. (1989). Categorization and naming in children: Problems of induction. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
    • Nelson, K. (1988). Constraints on word learning?.Cognitive Development, 3, 221–246.
    • Nelson, K. (1998). Where do taxonomic categories come from?.Human Development, 31, 3–10.
    • Nelson, K., & Gruendel, J. (1981). Generalized event representations: Basic building blocks of cognitive development. In M. Lamb & A. Brown (Eds.), Advances in developmental psychology: Vol. 1 (pp. 131–158). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
    • Nelson, K., & Nelson, A. P. (1990). Category production in response to script and category cues by kindergarten and second-grade children.Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 11, 431–446.
    • Patterson, J. (1998). Expressive vocabulary development and word combinations of Spanish-English bilingual toddlers.American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 7, 46–56.
    • Pearson, B. Z. (1998). Assessing lexical development in bilingual babies and toddlers.International Journal of Bilingualism, 2, 347–372.
    • Pearson, B. Z., Fernández, M. C., & Oller, D. K. (1992). Measuring bilingual children's receptive vocabularies.Child Development, 63, 1012–1221.
    • Pearson, B. Z., & Fernández, S. (1994). Patterns of interaction in the lexical growth in two language of bilingual infants and toddlers.Language Learning, 44, 617–653.
    • Pearson, B. Z., Fernández, S., & Oller, D. K. (1993). Lexical development in bilingual infants and toddlers: Comparison to monolingual norms.Language Learning, 43, 93–120.
    • Pearson, B. Z., Fernández, S., & Oller, D. K. (1995). Cross-language synonyms in the lexicons of bilingual infants: One language or two.Journal of Child Language, 22, 345–368.
    • Restrepo, M. A. (1998). Identifiers of primarily Spanish-speaking children with language impairment.Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 41, 1398–1411.
    • Roberts, P., & LeDorze, G. (1997). Semantic organization, strategy use, and productivity in bilingual semantic verbal fluency.Brain and Language, 59, 412–449.
    • Schwanenflugel, P. J., & Rey, M. (1986). The relationship between category typicality and concept familiarity: Evidence from Spanish- and English-speaking monolinguals.Memory & Cognition, 14, 150–163.
    • Umbel, V., Pearson, B. Z., Fernández, M., & Oller, D. K. (1992). Measuring bilingual children's receptive vocabulary.Child Development, 63, 1012–1020.
    • Volterra, V., & Taeshner, T. (1978). The acquisition and development of language by bilingual children.Journal of Child Language, 5, 311–320.
    • Yu, Y., & Nelson, K. (1993). Slot-filler and conventional organization in young Korean children.International Journal of Behavioral Development, 63(2), 1–14.

    Additional Resources