Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Speech, Language & Hearing Sciences

First Advisor

Pui Fong Kan

Second Advisor

Brenda Schick

Third Advisor

Bhuvana Narasimhan


The purpose of this study is to explore lexical-semantic development in early sequential bilingual children who speak Cantonese (L1) as a home language from birth and started to learn English (L2) as a second language in a preschool setting. Linguistically- and culturally- appropriate picture naming and picture identification tasks were developed to assess participants’ expressive and receptive vocabulary knowledge. In Study 1, seventy children participated in picture naming and picture identification tasks comparing their performance as a function of language (L1 or L2), modality (expressive or receptive), age, length of time at the preschool, and performance on standardized vocabulary assessment tools. In Study 2, the results on these tasks of five children on an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) were compared with typically developing, age-matched peers. Results from Study 1 indicate that there is a correlation between a child’s scores with their age, time in school and their scores on standardized tools in both tasks in English and picture identification tasks in Cantonese, but not with picture naming in Cantonese. Results from Study 2 show that only one of five children on IEPs had noticeably lower scores in tasks in both languages when compared to typically-developing peers. This underscores the importance of a culturally and linguistically appropriate assessment tool in distinguishing bilingual children who have a language difference from those with a language disorder.