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The Lexical Development of Canadian-Born Romanian L1 Bilingual Kindergarteners

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journal contribution
posted on 21.05.2021, 16:11 by Maria Claudia Petrescu, Rena Helms-Park
This study charts the lexical development of three sequential bilingual kindergarteners whose first language, Romanian, was acquired naturalistically at home, and whose second language, English, was acquired in kindergarten. The children’s lexical development in English and Romanian was assessed at five different points over a two-year period via the PPVT-4 (peabody picture vocabulary test 4) and a specially adapted PPVT-4 for Romanian. The children’s lexical repertoires were further analyzed to uncover home versus school and cognate versus non-cognate acquisitional differences. In addition, because there is no database of lexical items acquired by monolingual Romanian children, the PPVT-4 adapted for Romanian was administered to 22 monolingual six-year-old Romanian children in Sibiu, Romania. The findings indicate the following: (i) the three bilinguals’ receptive vocabulary in English was below average when they joined kindergarten, and at or above average two years later; (ii) their lexical growth in Romanian was steady; (iii) the bilinguals’ scores for words belonging to a home register reflected ceiling effects in English and Romanian (i.e., were very well known); (iv) academic words were known to an equal extent in English and Romanian, but scores were lower than for the home register; and (v) there was no definitive evidence of cognate facilitation. A comparison of the monolingual and bilingual Romanian repertoires reflects the following: (i) equally high scores for home items; (ii) differences in scores in the academic register in favour of the Romanian monolinguals; and (iii) important lifestyle and cultural differences between the groups. The Romanian children, for example, were more familiar than their Canadian counterparts with items related to home maintenance, such as șmirghăluiește (‘sanding’) and mistrie (‘trowel’), or items probably learned in school, such as foca (‘walrus’) and broască țestoasă (‘tortoise’).