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10 Jul 2014

Tapping the Linguistic Resources of Spanish/English Bilinguals: The Role of Cognates in Science

Marco A. Bravo, Elfrieda H. Hiebert, & P. David Pearson

Book Chapter
Published

Bravo, M.A., Hiebert, E.H., & Pearson, P.D. (2006). Tapping the Linguistic Resources of Spanish/English Bilinguals: The Role of Cognates in Science. In R.K. Wagner, A. Muse, & K. Tannenbaum (Eds.).  Vocabulary development and its implications for reading comprehension (pp.  140-156).  New York:  Guilford.

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Abstract

This paper explores the existence of and relationship between a set of Spanish/English cognates that have the potential for assisting Spanish/English bilinguals’ experiences with science texts. Due to their common ancestral bond of Latin, Spanish and English share many cognates, including some that are highly frequent in Spanish but less frequent in English, specifically in science text.  Consequently, Spanish/English bilinguals possess a linguistic resource that includes many words that, while commonplace in Spanish (e.g., enfermo), are reserved for scientific and academic registers in English (e.g., infirm).  For first language Spanish students these words might well aid in accessing core English words and understandings of science texts.  An analysis of the frequency of key vocabulary in three science units revealed a substantial number of these frequency-imbalanced cognate pairs; that is, the Spanish member has a higher frequency than the English counterpart.