Cross-linguistic transfer in multilingual children's speech

Research output: Other contribution to conferencePresentation onlypeer-review


Introduction: Cross-linguistic transfer, when a speech sound from one language is used when speaking another language, occurs in typically developing multilingual children’s speech. During speech assessment, speech-language pathologists must reflect on how multilingual children’s multiple phonological systems may interact. Vietnamese is the third most spoken non-English language in Australia, yet little is known about how Vietnamese and English interact in speech acquisition.

Aim: To explore the frequency and nature of cross-linguistic transfer in Vietnamese-English speaking children.

Methods: Participants were 66 Australian Vietnamese-English-speaking children aged 2;0-8;11. The Vietnamese Speech Assessment and the Diagnostic Evaluation of Articulation and Phonology were administered. Transcriptions were confirmed by a team that included Vietnamese-English speakers. Speech samples were analysed for instances of cross-linguistic transfer of non-shared consonants.

Results: 57 children (86.36%) demonstrated cross-linguistic transfer of non-shared consonants in at least one direction (from one language to the other). 17 children (25.76%) demonstrated bi-directional cross-linguistic transfer of non-shared consonants. The most frequently transferred non-shared consonants were: /ɡ, ɹ, θ/ to Vietnamese and /c, ʂ, Ɂ/ to English. All non-shared English consonants were found in at least one participants’ Vietnamese speech sample. Transfer tended to occur when the target was phonetically similar.

Conclusion: The majority of children in this study exhibited cross-linguistic transfer. If speech-language pathologists cannot identify non-shared speech sounds from children’s home languages, they may misinterpret cross-linguistic transfer as atypical speech errors. Speech-language pathologists need to consider all consonants that occur in multilingual children’s home languages to support accurate diagnostic decision-making.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023
Event32nd World Congress of the International Association of Communication Sciences and Disorders (IALP) 2023: IALP 2023 - The Aotea Centre, Auckland, New Zealand
Duration: 20 Aug 202324 Aug 2023


Conference32nd World Congress of the International Association of Communication Sciences and Disorders (IALP) 2023
Abbreviated titleTogether Towards Tomorrow
Country/TerritoryNew Zealand
Internet address


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