Nominal and Pronominal Referring Terms in Speech of an Arabic-English Bilingual Child: A Case Study

Document Type: Research Article


Department of English Language and Literature, Princess Alia University College, Al-Balqa Applied University, Amman, Jordan



This study was designed to trace the developmental path of the nominal and pronominal referring systems in the production of an English-Arabic bilingual child. The child’s spontaneous speech was recorded and data were analyzed. Data sets were clustered into 5 age spans starting from 1;9 to 3;9. The study was conducted under the framework of the semantic complexity hypothesis embedding 3 psychological principles of acquisition (i.e., ease of observability of referent, meaningfulness of referent, and distinctiveness of the sound signal that indicates the referent). The person-role hypothesis was also used as a framework to explain the development of the pronoun systems of both languages. Findings provide further evidence for the early advantage of nouns as referring expressions. They also reveal the early emergence of nouns with concrete referents as well as nouns of meaningful referents. These findings confirm the importance of the person-role hypothesis in the sequence of acquiring pronominal referring expressions.