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The absolute frequency of maternal input to bilingual and monolingual children

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Abstract

This study examines the actual amount of maternal language input received by young bilingual versus matched monolingual children. All mothers had always addressed their children in Dutch. The bilingual children in addition heard French from other caregivers since they were born. Analyses are based on video recordings of mother-child interaction when children were 13 and 20 months old. There was considerable interindividual variation amongst mothers in how much they talked with their children, regardless of whether mothers were part of a bilingual family or not. Based on analyses of 13 measures of input frequency, no differences emerged in the quantity of language input between mothers in bilingual and monolingual families. A number of bilingual children heard more Dutch from their mothers than children in monolingual families did. This study, likely the first to compare mothers in matched bilingual and monolingual families and to empirically compare maternal input, thus finds no evidence of reduced (maternal) language input for bilingual children. Instead, the absolute amount of maternal language input varied considerably for both bilingual and monolingual children. The study of this variation holds great potential for a better understanding of the underpinnings of bilingual children's language development.

References

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