The initial learning of novel English words: Two single-subject experiments with minority-language children

Barbara J Kiernan, L. Swisher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Scopus citations


The two single-subject, alternating treatment design experiments reported here investigated the initial learning of novel words by minority-language children acquiring English as a second language. Four Spanish- and 3 Navajo-speaking children (ages 4:11-6:3) served as subjects. The results for all children in both experiments supported the hypothesis that receptive learning of novel words in a second language would reach a pre-established criterion in fewer trials under a bilingual compared with a monolingual condition. In addition, several children in each study met the learning criterion for both first and second language words in the bilingual condition in approximately the same number of trials needed to reach criterion for the second language words in the monolingual condition. Neither study suggested that the degree of a subject's relative language dominance influenced the learning patterns. The findings are discussed in relation to the linguistic, language-related, and learning requirements of the experimental tasks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)707-716
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Speech and Hearing Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1990



  • minority-group-children experimental
  • second-language-learning
  • single-subject-design
  • vocabulary

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology

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