Differences in How Monolingual and Bilingual Children Learn Second Labels for Familiar Objects
Monolingual children resist learning second labels for familiar objects (e.g., a boat can be called a skiff), because they adhere to mutual exclusivity, the principle that an object has one name. It is less clear whether bilingual children observe this constraint. Study 1 demonstrated that bilingual preschoolers were more willing to accept second labels for familiar objects than monolinguals. Monolingual and bilingual children benefited from information about the relationship between the familiar and novel labels. Bilinguals, but not monolinguals, used this information to reliably accept the new words. In Study 2, monolingual preschoolers were offered additional information about the novel word, which allowed them to approach reliable learning. These studies suggest that monolingual and bilingual children differ in their adherence to mutual exclusivity, with bilingual children being both more willing to accept second labels, and requiring less information to do so.