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The receptive lexicon of dual language Gibraltarian primary school children

Abudarham, S. (1996). The receptive lexicon of dual language Gibraltarian primary school children. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)

Abstract

The overall objective of this investigation was to study the receptive lexicon of Dual Language (DL), Gibraltarian, primary school children (aged 4-12).

The central task required subjects to identify which one of four pictures presented, corresponded to a given stimulus word. Initially, 246 lexical stimuli were employed. This lexical corpus comprised 111 lexemes in Spanish and their translational equivalents in English (i.e. 'true' words) and 24 'nonsense' words which were meant to act as 'decoys’ to discourage children from guessing. Seventy five of the 'true' words corresponded to the first 75 items in the British Picture Vocabulary Scales (BPVS). The rest had been selected from, and corresponded to, other pictures chosen from a cross section of the first 75 BPVS plates. Following a pilot study, this lengthy task was reduced to leave a lexical corpus comprising 102 'true' words in Spanish, their translational equivalents in English, and four 'decoy' words. The final analyses involved 100 of the 'true" words.

Both a cross-sectional and a longitudinal design were employed and the investigation, lasting over two years, comprised four trials. Over 400 children took part but only 392 completed the first trial. 249 (nearly 64%) of the latter completed the second trial; 160 of these i.e. 64.3%, did so approximately 6 months later and 48 (19.3%, all attending one of the two middle schools used) completed the trial a year later. 153 subjects (39% of the original cohort completed the third trial) and 73 (nearly 19% of the original cohort) completed the fourth trial.

Children below 6 years of age were given the task individually and the BPVS picture manual was used for these. Older children completed the task in groups and the pictures were projected from transparencies onto a screen.

Several variables were studied, but the main focus of attention was on a small selection of these. Perhaps the two most important were lexical development in each of four linguistic variables (i.e. Spanish, English, 'Bilinguality' and Conceptual Vocabulary) and its relationship between each variable. The relationship between each language (i.e. Spanish and English) was of particular interest. Others included comparisons between cross-sectional and longitudinal designs and the correlational relationship between development in each linguistic variable (LV) and age.

A battery of second level investigations comprised two further sets of analyses. The first aimed at comparing these DL subjects’ performance with BPVS 'normalised' scores. The second comprised an item analysis of correct responses in Spanish and in English; this analysis also provided information of lexical familiarity in each language. An analysis was also conducted to establish how many items were known in both languages i.e. 'bilingual' responses; this provided information of 'equilingual' lexical familiarity.

Most analyses, were conducted according to age group which had been categorised in intervals of 6 months. A certain number of analyses attempted to establish gender and school differences.

The main findings were as follows. Generally speaking, lexical development with age was in evidence in all linguistic variables and there was a positive correlation between the performance in linguistic variables. Longitudinal data reflected more sensitivity in revealing lexical development than cross-sectional data. The notion of Conceptual Vocabulary (CV) provided a substantially enhanced measure of 'true' indicator of lexical proficiency than any other linguistic variable. This was particularly poignant in the comparisons conducted with BPVS 'normalised' data. These showed that the performance of many of the younger subjects (up to the age of at least 7) was comparable to 'BPVS monoglots' if CV was the criterion of lexical proficiency as opposed to Spanish (LI), or worse still, English (L2). The lexical proficiency in both L2 and LI was inferior to that of CV at all times. An item analysis failed to produce evidence that there was a socio-cultural bias in any of the lexical corpus employed. It also provided a measure of the relative familiarity in each language of the lexicon for each item, and indicated that the pattern was varied.

Several practical pedagogical implications of the conclusions arrived at following the interpretation of the analyses are proposed. These focused mainly on issues regarding the assessment, identification and management of specific and second language learning problems. Possible future areas of research are proposed and discussed.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
P Language and Literature > PB Modern European Languages
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Language & Communication Science
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > School of Health & Psychological Sciences Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses
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