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About this sample
Words: 2133 |
11 min read
Published: Aug 14, 2023
Words: 2133|Pages: 5|11 min read
Bilingualism offers a unique perspective on language acquisition and cognitive development, challenging conventional notions of language proficiency and highlighting the benefits that come with mastering multiple languages. This essay aims to explore the differences between bilingual and monolingual children, focusing on their educational experiences and learning outcomes.
Bilingual children are immersed in two linguistic systems from an early age, allowing them to navigate multiple cultural contexts and develop a broader worldview. They possess a remarkable ability to switch between languages, adapt to different communication styles, and understand diverse cultural nuances. This flexibility and adaptability can positively influence their cognitive abilities, problem-solving skills, and overall academic performance.
Conversely, monolingual children primarily interact within a single linguistic system, which may limit their exposure to diverse languages and cultures. While monolingualism does not imply any deficits in cognitive abilities or academic achievements, understanding the differences between monolingual and bilingual children can help educators and policymakers tailor educational approaches to better support linguistic diversity.
Once children have learnt how to segment words from speech streams using stress patterns and rhythmic properties of their ambient language/languages, they will encounter the mapping problem, also known as the indeterminacy of word meaning. The possibilities of associating word meaning to a referent or any property of the referent could be limitless: how does the child hearing the word /k^p/ know that the ‘container used for drinking’ is being labelled rather than the cup’s handle or the material of the cup? What if the child is bilingual and another language system is also involved? One theory that has made such problem solvable is that children’s early stages of lexical development are conducted through acquiring a set of lexical constraints, or principles, and these lexical constraints could help children limit the possibilities to consider while mapping the new words they have heard to their referents. The mutual exclusivity principle, ‘limiting potential word meanings by assuming that labels for objects are mutually exclusive or have only one name’, is one of the constraints suggested by researchers.
On the other hand, for bilingual children and monolingual children, the use of mutual exclusivity could be drastically different from one another. As Gathercole noted in his research, monolingual children has displayed the inclination for the use of mutual-exclusivity: when an object has a known name, monolingual children tend to assume any additional name give for the object refers to the properties of this object. On the contrary, since bilingual children obtain the experiences of acquiring two different names for one object as daily routines, the theory which bilingual children tend to demonstrate less reliance on the use of mutual exclusivity for their lexical development was proposed. Also, in light of the previous study, it could been known that the properties of a language could also exert influence on the use of lexical constraints such as the mutual exclusivity such as the emphasis on mass and count nouns. Hence, during the following essay, the extent of, reasons behind and the outcome of the difference among the bilingual children and their monolingual peers in the use of mutual exclusivity in the naming of whole objects will be discussed, both with and without the influence exerted by a particular language to bilingual children.
The recent research by Davidson and Tell has evidenced the theory proposed by Au and Glusman through conducting two sets of experiments. The experiment subjects are consisted of 40 Urdu & English bilingual children and 40 English monolingual children from American middle-class upbringing. The main objective for the first experiment is which the participants (both bilingual and monolingual children) have to make decisions toward whether the made-up nonsensical nouns were referring to the whole object or the salient spare part of such object. Whereas for the second experiment, it was aiming to examine the influence of specific instructions given to the participants in a specific language (which in this case is English) on their use of mutual exclusivity in the naming of whole objects. Therefore, according to the final result, the theory proposed by Au and Glusman was evidenced, since the monolingual children demonstrated significant reliance on the mutual exclusivity constraint by mainly associating the nonsensical names to the salient spare part of a familiar object. Such outcome was drastically different to their bilingual peers’, who have shown less inclination for the use of mutual-exclusivity. Thus, excluding the influence exerted by a particular language, for children at their early stages of lexical development, bilingual children displayed less reliance on the use of mutual exclusivity than monolingual children.
Besides, the bilingualism may exert stronger influence on children’s acquisition on lexical principles while they are emerging into later stages of lexical developement, at lest the ones associated with mutual exclusivity. For instance, the research of Davidson et al., with participants of 6 years of age has observed that monolingual children are readily to use mutual exclusivity principle during the rejection test (display the will of resist associating made-up labels for known objects), than their bilingual peers. In the mean time, compared with the research by Merriman et al., with participant of 6~8 years of age, it could be seen that with the growing of age, monolingual children would display a greater inclination for the use of mutual-exclusivity, while assigning a novel name for a salient spare part of an object.
Additionally, the disambiguation test included in the experiment of Davidson et al., could be used to further strengthen such viewpoint. Developmental distinctions were notable during the disambiguation test (the test aims to examine participants’ willingness of referring a novel name to a novel object), which 90% of the monolingual participants are willing to associate new names to new referents. For their bilingual peers, the result were 69%, which could be regarded as the evidence of bilingual children’s use of mutual exclusivity constraint. In the meantime, different from the bilingual participants, the disambiguation effect are more likely to appear on older monolingual participants, which the same result were not observed on older bilingual participants. Therefore, although it could be evidenced that bilinguals could be utilising mutual exclusivity to some degree, they still appeared to be less reliant on word-learning principles, at least those ones used by their monolingual peers.
On the other hand, as suggested by the research of Gathercole and Min, bilingualism itself could not be regarded as the sole propeller that is capable of enlarging the difference between bilingual children and their monolingual peers in their use of mutual exclusivity constraint. Although, as mentioned previously, it could be argued that bilinguals possess potentially higher demand of filling the lexical gaps given their experiences on constantly assigning two names (from two sets of different ambient languages), bilingualism itself still could not be regarded as the main reason behind the difference in use of mutual exclusivity constraint. That is, the act of a child assigning a novel noun to a novel referent could be since rather than having two names for a novel object, a child might want to avoid the circumstance which the object possesses no name. Hence, the different properties (eg., mass/count noun distinction) of different languages should also be considered when exploring the difference in using of the mutual exclusivity constraint between bilingual and monolingual children. Consequently, the language which the instructions were given also plays a significant role when exploring the difference in the use of mutual-exclusivity. As discussed above, it could be seen that the difference among languages is a vital factor and should be taken into consideration while conducting experiments towards the difference in the use of mutual exclusivity between bilingual children and monolingual children. Meanwhile, such factor is also what has been overlooked in the experiment design of Davidson and Tell. Therefore, the second experiment has failed to examine the effect of exerted from bilingualism itself to the difference in children’s acquisition of word-learning principals.
The research conducted by Gathercole and Min, on the other hand, with English monolingual children and English/Korean bilingual children, could be used to cope with this issue. Their experiment design has acknowledged the drastic syntactical difference between Korean language and English language, which unlike Korean, there is heavy distinction between mass and count nouns in English. Hence, while the other parts of the experiment design were aligned with the second experiment with Davidson and Tell, the instructions given to child participants were in both Korean and English. As displayed in their result, it could be found that no prominent preference for associating the referent to the whole object were demonstrated when the instructions were given in English to Korean/English bilingual children. In the meantime, the preference for naming the whole object was displayed when the instructions were given in Korean. Built on such result, it could be observed that the different properties of languages should be regarded as a more important factor for eliciting the differences in bilinguals’ early acquisition of word-learning constraints, rather than bilingualism itself. Thus, based on what has been discussed above, the difference in the use of mutual exclusivity in whole object naming is a combined effect resulted from both bilingualism, which and language properties such as syntax and grammar.
However, after bilingual children’s emergence into adulthood, their usage of mutual exclusivity constraint may vary from their early stages of lexical development. As Au and Glusman observed from a set of experiments, adult bilinguals demonstrated the same level of maintenance on mutual exclusivity as their monolingual peers, under both language environments. This might be the result of adult bilinguals’ increased capability of separating two different sets of languages from each other. However, researches that are previously mentioned cannot successfully establish any evidence towards such theory, due to the little access they were granted towards using bilingual adults as experiment participants. Also, little researches conducted on examining bilingual adult’s usage of lexical constraints could be found, which in another way, could be regarded as suggested directions for future researches.
Overall, by examining the contrasting experiences of bilingual and monolingual children in educational settings, we can gain insights into the ways language proficiency influences learning outcomes, cognitive development, and social integration. This exploration also underscores the importance of embracing linguistic diversity and promoting bilingualism as a valuable asset within educational systems.
multiple experiments have established solid evidence which the bilingual children would show less inclination towards the use of lexical constraints such as the ones associated with mutual-exclusivity. Besides, bilingualism itself may produce greater influence on children’s acquisition on lexical principles during the emergence into later stages of lexical development, especially the ones used by their monolingual peers, which are largely associated with mutual exclusivity, which was evidenced the rejection test and the disambiguation test. On the contrary, the difference in the properties of languages themselves should not be overlooked while conducting experiments—since for bilinguals, as observed in the experiments, the difference in the use of mutual exclusivity could also be elicited while giving bilingual experimental instructions to bilingual participants. Also, due to the fact that most experiment found are lacking access to adult bilingual participants, there were still little to no experiments could be used to strengthen the pioneering theory, which bilingual adults’ increased ability to distinguish two sets of language systems, their usage of mutual exclusivity constraint may vary drastic from their early stages of lexical development. Hence, further experiments are required to be established in such direction, in order to cope with such issue.
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