Lexical development in an Indonesian-Balinese bilingual child

Ni Luh Putu Sri Adnyani, Ni Made Rai Wisudariani, I Wayan Swandana


It is debatable whether bilingual children can distinguish between their two languages from an early age. This study aims to describe how a bilingual infant differentiates between her two languages, focusing on the acquisition of a dual vocabulary. This topic is addressed in a bilingual case study of an infant who acquired a national language (Indonesian) and an indigenous language (Balinese) simultaneously from birth until the age of one year and eleven months. Within the family, the two languages are used interchangeably. The parents' native language is Balinese, and Indonesian is the neighbourhood’s lingua franca. However, within the peer group, Indonesian is the dominant language. Daily diaries are used to record the child's vocabulary development in combination with weekly video recordings in the two language settings. The study shows that the child develops vocabulary in both Indonesian and Balinese. Since Indonesian and Balinese are closely related, the child also develops words that are shared by the two languages. During the development of the child’s vocabulary, Indonesian words outnumbered Balinese words due to the dominant use of Indonesian in the environment. The research demonstrates that translation equivalents (TEs) mean those language choices are available from the early stages of language development. The study shows that translation equivalents (TEs) demonstrate those language choices are available from the initial stages of language development. The findings highlight that a child who is exposed to two closely related languages can differentiate different language systems from an early age. Despite the child's ability to differentiate between the two languages, the national language develops at a far quicker rate than the indigenous language.


Bilingual; development; Indonesian-Balinese child; lexical development; lexicon

Full Text:



Abtahian, M., Cohn, A., & Pepinsky, T. (2016). Modeling social factors in language shift. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 2016(242), 139-170. https://doi.org/10.1515/ijsl-2016-0036

Adnyani, N. L. P. S., Beratha, N. L. S., & Suparwa, I.N. (2017). Child comprehension of adults' verbal input: A case of bilingual acquisition in infancy. Indonesian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 7(1), 11-18. https://doi.org/10.17509/ijal.v7i1.6853

Adnyani, N. L. P. S., Beratha, N. L. S., Pastika, I. W., & Suparwa, I. N. (2017). Early lexical development and the development of translation equivalents in a simultaneous bilingual child. E-Journal of Linguistics, 11(2), 130-148. http://doi.org/10.24843/eJL.2017.v11.i02.p04

Adnyani, N. L. P. S., & Pastika, I. W. (2016). Phonological development in the early speech of an Indonesian-German bilingual child. Research in Language, 14(3), 329-350. https://doi.org/10.1515/rela-2016-0017

Adnyani, N. L. P. S., Beratha, N. L. S., Pastika, I. W., & Suparwa, I. N. (2018). The development of verbal morphology and word order in an Indonesian-German bilingual child: A case study. Topics in Linguistics, 19(1). https://doi.org/10.2478/topling-2018-0003

Albert, R. R., Schwade, J. A., & Goldstein, M. H. (2018). The social functions of babbling: Acoustic and contextual characteristics that facilitate maternal responsiveness. Developmental Science, 21(5), 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1111/desc.12641

Antovich, D. M., & Estes, K. G. (2018). Learning across languages: Bilingual experience supports dual language statistical word segmentation. Developmental Science, 21(2). https://doi.org/10.1111/desc.12548

Atifnigar, H., Safari, M. Z., & Rafat, A. H. (2021). Exploring the causes of language death: A review paper. International Journal of Arts and Social Science, 4(4), 180-186.

Barachetti, C., Majorano, M., Rossi, G., Antolini, E., Zerbato, R., & Lavelli, M. (2022). Vocabulary production in toddlers from low-income immigrant families: Evidence from children exposed to Romanian-Italian and Nigerian English-Italian. Journal of Child Language, 49(2), 408-421. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0305000921000222

Birulés, J., Bosch, L., Brieke, R., Pons, F., & Lewkowicz, D. J. (2019). Inside bilingualism: Language background modulates selective attention to a talker's mouth. Developmental science, 22(3), e12755. https://doi.org/10.1111/desc.12755

Bloom, L., Tinker, E., & Margulis, C. (1993). The words children learn: Evidence against a noun bias in early vocabularies. Cognitive Development, 8(4), 431-450. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0885-2014(05)80003-6

Bosch, L., & Ramon-Casas, M. (2014). First translation equivalents in bilingual toddlers’ expressive vocabulary: Does form similarity matter? International Journal of Behavioral Development, 38(4), 317-322. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0165025414532559

Chai, J. H., Low, H. M., Wong, T. P., Onnis, L., & Mayor, J. (2021). Extra-linguistic modulation of the English noun-bias: Evidence from Malaysian bilingual infants and toddlers. Journal of Cultural Cognitive Science, 5(1), 49-64. https://doi.org/10.1007/s41809-021-00078-5

Chantal, V. A. N., Wonderen, E. V., Koutamanis, E., Kootstra, G. J., Dijkstra, T., & Unsworth, S. (2022). Cross-linguistic influence in simultaneous and early sequential bilingual children: a meta-analysis. Journal of Child Language, 49(5), 897-929. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0305000921000337

Clark, E. V. (1987). The principle of contrast: A constraint on language acquisition. In B. MacWhinney (Ed.), Mechanisms of language aquisition (pp. 1–33). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1987-97656-001

Clark, E. (1993). The lexicon in acquisition. Cambridge University Press.

Clark, H., & Clark, E. (1977). Psychology and language. Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0305000900001562

Cychosz, M., Cristia, A., Bergelson, E., Casillas, M., Baudet, G., Warlaumont, A.S., Scaff, C., Yankowitz, L., & Seidl, A (2021). Vocal development in a large‐scale crosslinguistic corpus. Developmental science, 24(5), e13090. https://doi.org/10.1111/desc.13090

Dardjowidjojo, S. (2000). Echa kisah pemerolehan bahasa anak Indonesia. Penerbit Universitas Katolik Indonesia Atma Jaya.

De Anda, S., & Friend, M. (2020). Lexical-semantic development in bilingual toddlers at 18 and 24 months. Frontiers in Psychology, 11. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.508363

Dirgeyasa, I. (2016). Potret penggunaan Bahasa Bali bagi komunitas Bali di kota Medan [Portrait of the use of Balinese for the Balinese community in the city of Medan]. Konferensi Linguistik Tahunan Atma Jaya 14, 432-436. Universitas Atma Jaya. http://digilib.unimed.ac.id/id/eprint/14906

Dromi, E. (1987). Early lexical development. Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F026565908900500311

Elmlinger, S. L., Schwade, J. A., Vollmer, L., & Goldstein, M. H. (2022). Learning how to learn from social feedback: The origins of early vocal development. Developmental Science. https://doi.org/10.1111/desc.13296

Floccia, C., Luche, C. D., Lepadatu, I., Chow, J., Ratnage, P., & Plunkett, K. (2020). Translation equivalent and cross-language semantic priming in bilingual toddlers. Journal of Memory and Language, 112. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jml.2019.104086

Friesen, D. C., Whitford, V., Titone, D., & Jared, D. (2020). The impact of individual differences on cross-language activation of meaning by phonology. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 23(2), 323-343. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1366728919000142

Ge, H., Matthews, S., Cheung, L. Y., & Yip, V. (2017). Bidirectional cross-linguistic influence in Cantonese-English influence bilingual children: The case of right-dislocation. First language, 37(3), 231-251. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0142723716687955

Genesee, F., & Nicoladis, E. (2007). Bilingual first language acquisition. In E. Hoff & M. Shatz (Eds.), Blackwell handbook of language development (pp. 324-342). Blackwell Publishing Ltd.)

Gentner, D. (1982). Why nouns are learned before verbs: Linguistic relativity versus natural partitioning. Center for the Study of Reading Technical Report.

Georgiou, G. P. (2019). Bit and beat are heard as the same: Mapping the vowel perceptual patterns of Greek-English bilingual children. Language Sciences, 72, 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.langsci.2018.12.001

Gimenez-Arce, L. (2019). Language access in early and late Spanish-English bilinguals: An ERP Study. CUNY Academic Works. https://academicworks.cuny.edu/jj_etds/119/

Gonzalez-Barrero, A. M., Schott, E., & Byers-Heinlein, K. (2020). Bilingual adjusted vocabulary: A developmentally-informed bilingual vocabulary measure. Psyarxiv. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/x7s4u

Goodrich, J. M., & Lonigan, C. J. (2018). Language-minority children’s sensitivity to the semantic relations between words. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 167,259–277. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jecp.2017.11.001

Ha, S., Oller, D. K. (2019). Canonical babbling in Korean-acquiring infants at 4-9 months of age. Communication Sciences & Disorders, 24(1), 1-8. https://doi.org/10.12963/csd.19577

Hartshorne, J., Huang, Y., & Skorb, L. (2021). Some puzzling findings regarding the acquisition of verbs. Psyarxiv. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/xw9e7

Herve, C., Serratrice, L., & Corley, M. (2016). Dislocations in French–English bilingual children: An elicitation study. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 19(5), 987-1000. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1366728915000401

Indriani, R. Y., Silvhiany, S., & Mirizon, S. (2021). Raising bilingual children: An exploration of language ideology and its practices in an Indonesian family. Indonesian Language Education and Literature, 7(1), 27-41. http://doi.org/10.24235/ileal.v7i1.8733

Jang, H., & Ha, S. (2020). Canonical babbling development in Korean-acquiring infants. Communication Sciences & Disorders, 25(1), 104-112. https://doi.org/10.12963/csd.20687

Jardak, A., & Byers-Heinlein, K. (2018). Labels or concepts? The development of semantic networks in bilingual two-year-olds. Child Development. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdev.13050

Jouravlev, O., McPhedran, M., Hodgins, V., & Jared, D. (2021, June 26). Cross-language semantic parafoveal preview benefits in bilinguals. Psyarxiv. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/jw9t7

Kempe, V., Gauvrit, N., Gibson, A., & Jamieson, M. (2019). Adults are more efficient in creating and transmitting novel signalling systems than children. Journal of Language Evolution, 4(1), 44-70. https://doi.org/10.1093/jole/lzy012

Kirkham, S., & McCarthy, K. M. (2021). Acquiring allophonic structure and phonetic detail in a bilingual community: The production of laterals by Sylheti-English bilingual children. International Journal of Bilingualism, 25(3), 531-547. https://doi.org/10.1177/1367006920947180

Laing, C., & Bergelson, E. (2020). From babble to words: Infants’ early productions match words and objects in their environment. Cognitive psychology, 122, 101308. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cogpsych.2020.101308

Lang, S., Bartl-Pokorny, K., Pokorny, F., Garrido, D., Mani, N., Fox-Boyer, A., et al. (2019). Canonical babbling: A marker for earlier identification of late detected developmental disorders? Current Developmental Disorders Reports, 6, (3), 111-118. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40474-019-00166-w

Lee, C. C., Jhang, Y., Relyea, G., Chen, L. M., & Oller, D. K. (2018). Babbling development as seen in canonical babbling ratios: A naturalistic evaluation of all-day recordings. Infant Behavior and Development, 50, 140-153. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.infbeh.2017.12.002

Legacy, J., Reider, J., Crivello, C., Kuzyk, O., Friend, M., Zesiger, P., & Poulin-Dubois, D. (2017). Dog or chien? Translation equivalents in the receptive and expressive vocabularies of young French–English bilinguals. Journal of child language, 44(4), 881-904. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0305000916000295

Martin‐Anatias, N. (2018). Bahasa gado‐gado: English in Indonesian popular texts. World Englishes, 37(2), 340-355. https://doi.org/10.1111/weng.12313

Martono, M., Dewantara, J. A., Efriani, E., & Prasetiyo, W. H. (2022). The national identity on the border: Indonesian language awareness and attitudes through multi‐ethnic community involvement. Journal of Community Psychology, 50(1), 111-125. https://doi.org/10.1002/jcop.22505

Mifsud, C. L., & Vella, L. A. (2018). To mix languages or not? Preschool bilingual education in Malta. In M. Schwartz (ed.), Preschool Bilingual Education (pp. 57-98). Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-77228-8_3

Mitchell, L., Tsui, R. K., & Byers-Heinlein, K. (2022). Cognates are advantaged in early bilingual expressive vocabulary development. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/daktp

Nicoladis, E. (1998). First clues to the existence of two input languages: Pragmatic and lexical differentiation in a bilingual child. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 105-116. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1366728998000236

Nielsen, M., Haun, D., Kärtner, J., & Legare, C. H. (2017). The persistent sampling bias in developmental psychology: A call to action. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 162, 31-38. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jecp.2017.04.017

Pearson, B., Fernández, S., & Oller, D. (1995). Cross-language synonyms in the lexicons of bilingual infants: One language or two? Journal of child language, 22, (2), 345-368. https://doi.org/10.1017/S030500090000982X

Persici, V., Vihman, M., Burro, R., & Majorano, M. (2019). Lexical access and competition in bilingual children: The role of proficiency and the lexical similarity of the two languages. Journal of experimental child psychology, 179, 103-125. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jecp.2018.10.002

Poulin-Dubois, D., Kuzyk, O., Legacy, J., Zesiger, P., & Friend, M. (2018). Translation equivalents facilitate lexical access in very young bilinguals. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 21(4), 856-866. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1366728917000657

Pretzer, G. M., Lopez, L. D., Walle, E. A., & Warlaumont, A. S. (2019). Infant-adult vocal interaction dynamics depend on infant vocal type, child-directedness of adult speech, and timeframe. Infant Behavior and Development, 57, 101325. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.infbeh.2019.04.007

Quay, S. (1995). The bilingual lexicon: Implications for studies of language choice. Journal of Child Language, 22, 369-397. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0305000900009831

Rahmini,N. (2019, March 30). Multilingualism and bilingualism in Javanese society. Metaphor, 1(1), 47-68.

Ramírez, N. F., Lytle, S. R., Fish, M., & Kuhl, P. K. (2019). Parent coaching at 6 and 10 months improves language outcomes at 14 months: A randomized controlled trial. Developmental Science, 22(3), e12762. https://doi.org/10.1111/desc.12762

Ramírez-Esparza, N., García-Sierra, A., & Kuhl, P. K. (2017). The impact of early social interactions on later language development in Spanish–English bilingual infants. Child Development, 88(4), 1216–1234.

Schelletter, C. (2002). The effect of form similarity on bilingual children's lexical development. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 5(2), 93-107. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1366728902000214

Shiro, M., Erika, H. O. F. F., & Ribot, K. M. (2020). Cultural differences in the content of child talk: evaluative lexis of English monolingual and Spanish–English bilingual 30-month-olds. Journal of child language, 47(4), 844-869. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0305000919000990

Simanjuntak, T. (2017). A guide for planning the future of our language as an alternative for measuring language vitality: The case of Ngaju [NIJ], an LWC in Central Kalimantan. Konferensi Linguistik Tahunan Atma Jaya Kelima Belas (pp. 194-198). Pusat Kajian Bahasa dan Budaya, Universitas Katolik Indonesia Atma Jaya. https://lib.atmajaya.ac.id/default.aspx?tabID=61&src=k&id=232314

Siregar, I. (2022). Effective and efficient treatment of regional language preservation strategies in the Nusantara. Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences Studies, 4(2), 16-22.

Swingley, D., & Humphrey, C. (2018). Quantitative linguistic predictors of infants’ learning of specific English words. Child development, 89(4), 1247-1267. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdev.12731

Taeschner, T. (1983). The sun is feminine: A study on language acquisition in bilingual children. Springer-Verlag. https://www.springer.com/gp/book/9783642483318

Thamrin, T. (2018). The language attitudes of Minangkabau people towards Minangkabau and Indonesian language. International Journal of Language Teaching and Education, 2(2), 157-175. https://doi.org/10.22437/ijolte.v2i2.5065

Tsui, R. K. Y., Gonzalez-Barrero, A. M., Schott, E., & Byers-Heinlein, K. (2022). Are translation equivalents special? Evidence from simulations and empirical data from bilingual infants. Cognition, 225, 105084.

Vigliocco, G., Ponari, M., & Norbury, C. (2018). Learning and processing abstract words and concepts: Insights from typical and atypical development. Topics in cognitive science, 10(3), 533-549. https://doi.org/10.1111/tops.12347

Vila, I. (1985). La aparición y desarrollo de términos equivalentes en el primer lenguaje del niño bilingüe familiar. Actas del Segundo Congreso Nacional de Linguistica Aplicada. SGEL-Education. https://dialnet.unirioja.es/servlet/articulo?codigo=7794916

Volterra, V., & Taeschner, T. (1978). The acquisition and development of language bilingual children. Journal of Child Language, 5(2), 311-326. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0305000900007492

Zhang, Y. S., & Ghazanfar, A. A. (2018). Vocal development through morphological computation. PLoS biology, 16(2), e2003933.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17509/ijal.v12i2.51089


  • There are currently no refbacks.

View My Stats

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.