The role of language proficiency, cognate status and word frequency in the assessment of Spanish-English bilinguals verbal fluency

Henrike K. Blumenfeld*, Susan C. Bobb, Viorica Marian

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations

Abstract

Purpose: Assessment tools are needed to accurately index performance in bilingual populations. This study examines the verbal fluency task to further establish the relative sensitivities of letter and category fluency in assessing bilingual language skills in Spanish-English bilinguals.Method: English monolinguals and Spanish-English bilinguals had 1 minute to name words belonging to a category (e.g. animals) or starting with a letter (e.g. A). Number of words retrieved, proficiency, cognate and frequency effects were examined.Result: In their dominant language (English), bilinguals and monolinguals showed similar fluency patterns, generating more words in category than letter tasks. This category advantage disappeared for bilinguals tested in their non-dominant language (Spanish). Further, bilinguals retrieved a higher percentage of cognates (e.g. lagoon-laguna) than monolinguals across tasks and languages. In particular, as proficiency increased in their non-dominant language, bilinguals were more likely to produce cognates (including cognates with lower word frequencies).Conclusion: While bilinguals and monolinguals performed largely the same, bilinguals showed fine-grained differences from monolinguals in both their dominant and non-dominant languages. Based on these results, it is recommended that clinicians evaluate findings from bilinguals verbal fluency tasks with attention to language proficiency, cognate words produced and relative to normative data that match their clients language histories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)190-201
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Speech-Language Pathology
Volume18
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 3 2016

Keywords

  • Verbal fluency
  • bilingual assessment
  • language proficiency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Research and Theory
  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • LPN and LVN
  • Speech and Hearing

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