Spanish Language Growth and Deceleration and its Impact on English Language Growth and English Reading Skills in Bilingual Children




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This manuscript-based dissertation is comprised of three interrelated longitudinal studies on Spanish language growth and deceleration and its impact on English language growth and English reading skills in bilingual children. Chapter 1 introduces the manuscript-based dissertation and provides the background on existing, longitudinal work of dual Spanish-English language growth and Spanish deceleration. It describes the theoretical framework of dynamical systems model and cross-linguistic relations hypotheses as applied to the three studies, which characterize the complexity of dual language growth trajectories over time. Chapter 1 also introduces core methodological aspects shared across the studies, such as the overall sample of participants, the longitudinal language sampling protocol, and the primary oral language measures used for analysis. Finally, it details the specialized analytic approach used for each of the three longitudinal studies, growth curve modeling (GCM). Chapter 2 (Study 1) provides a more detailed review of prior literature on Spanish and heritage language deceleration, as well as their possible limitations. This study has been completed, submitted for publication, and is under revision. It aimed to determine if Spanish deceleration or growth was found in two grammatical (mean length of utterance in words and proportion of grammatical utterances) and two lexical (number of different words and moving-average type token ratio) measures in subgroups of participants academically instructed in English. The results indicate that subgroups of participants demonstrated either Spanish growth or deceleration on the grammatical and lexical measures. Chapter 3 (Study 2) discusses different academic settings and language of instruction for Spanish-English bilinguals, as well as opposing views and different outcomes based on language of instruction. This study aimed to determine if there are differences in the oral language development in Spanish and English for bilingual children in either English or Spanish instruction. It also examines the potential impact of language of instruction on Spanish and English language growth or deceleration using one grammatical measure (proportion of grammatical utterances) and one lexical measure (moving-average type-token ratio). Results indicate that bilingual children differed in their rates of Spanish and English oral language development as a function of their primary language of instruction in school. The children who received Spanish instruction in school had faster rates of growth in Spanish and English. The children who received English instruction demonstrated significant deceleration of their Spanish grammatical skills. Chapter 4 (Study 3) examines the longitudinal impact of Spanish oral language skills on English language and reading skills. Academic performance and standardized testing of bilinguals, and prior longitudinal studies of oral language on reading skills are reviewed. The primary aim of this study was to systematically determine how early Spanish language (growth or deceleration) may impact later English oral language and reading skills. The results detail the estimated growth and potential deceleration of two Spanish oral language measures (proportion of grammatical utterances, moving-average type-token ratio), and the impact of Spanish language measures on the same English oral language measures and one English reading measure (Measure of Academic Progress – Reading). Neither Spanish grammatical nor lexical productive skills were found to impact growth of English language or reading skills. Overall growth was found for all measures with the exception of a subgroup of participants who experienced deceleration of Spanish grammatical skills. Chapter 5 draws general conclusions and possible clinical implications from the results obtained from the three dissertation studies. Although the studies overall encompass relatively small sample sizes (N = 34 Study 1; N = 90 Study 2; N = 57 Study 3), they were larger and spanned a longer time course than the majority of prior longitudinal studies focused on Spanish deceleration. The low socioeconomic household status of the participants also makes them more representative of Hispanic Spanish-English bilinguals in the U.S. Future planned studies beyond this series include a qualitative analysis of possible markers of Spanish deceleration.



Education, Bilingual, Children -- Language, Spanish language -- Study and teaching (Elementary)