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Die Entwicklung des rezeptiven Wortschatzes bei bi-, tri- und multilingual aufwachsenden Kindern

Zurück zum Heft: Linguistische Berichte Heft 263
EUR 19,90

Studies on the acquisition of the lexicon have shown that multilingual children have disadvantages if compared with monolingual children. Multilingual children acquire the lexicon of the majority language with ease; they lag behind their monolingual peers if it comes to the lexicon of the minority language. However, longitudinal studies of children who acquire three languages from birth, which are still rare, prove that a balanced lexicon in all three languages is possible. The present study focus on the size of the lexicon in 126 children, of whom 53 are bilingual, 64 trilingual and 9 multilingual (with more than three languages). In order to be able to analyze the potential(ly positive) influence of the majority language with respect to the subject’s linguistic development, testing took place in a Spanish-Catalan environment (Palma, Spain) as well as in a German environment. The most important result of the study is that multilingualism influences negatively the size of the lexicon only in German and not in the other studied languages (French, Spanish and Catalan). The negative effect in German cannot be explained on the basis of lower reaction times in the test, on the fact that German is not the majority language or on an unbalanced language development. The observations allow for a linguistically-motivated explanation, related to the architecture of the German mental lexicon: this architecture contrasts sharply with the mental lexicons of the Romance languages. As a consequence, the study can be used to discern higher educational needs of multilingual children in German, if they acquire more than two languages from birth.