Language-minority children's sensitivity to the semantic relations between words

J. Marc Goodrich, Christopher J. Lonigan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to examine automatic language processing among Spanish-speaking language-minority children. A sample of 73 children (mean age = 90.4 months) completed two measures of semantic priming: an auditory lexical decision task and a looking-while-listening task. It was hypothesized that within- and cross-language semantic priming effects would occur but that translation priming effects would not occur. Results from vocabulary assessments indicated that language-minority children in this study were more proficient in English than they were in Spanish. Limited evidence for semantic priming effects within English and from English to Spanish emerged. In addition, substantial evidence for translation priming from Spanish to English and from English to Spanish emerged. Given the lack of within-Spanish semantic priming effects and the presence of translation priming effects from Spanish to English, the results of this study indicated that Spanish-speaking language-minority children rely on translation from their less proficient language to their more proficient language to access meaning. There was partial evidence that language-minority children's two languages are active simultaneously, indicating that early in life children develop semantic knowledge that is associated with words known in both languages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)259-277
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
StatePublished - Mar 2018


  • Dual language learners
  • Language development
  • Language minority
  • Language processing
  • Revised hierarchical model
  • Semantic priming

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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