Monolingual and bilingual children's resolution of referential conflicts: Effects of bilingualism and relative language proficiency.
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Monolingual children follow pointing over labeling when these are in conflict in object selection tasks. Specifically, when a speaker labels one object, but points at another object, monolinguals select the object pointed at. Here, we ask whether (i) bilingual children show the same behavior as monolinguals and (ii) relative language proficiency affects bilinguals’ conflict resolution. 35 monolingual and 32 bilingual two- to four-year-olds performed an experiment involving a conflict between pointing and labeling. The bilinguals were tested in Dutch and in English. The bilinguals had a stronger preference for pointing over labeling and selected both objects less often than the monolinguals. Point following was stronger in the bilinguals’ weaker language than in their stronger language. These results support earlier findings on bilinguals’ increased sensitivity to socio-pragmatic cues and weaker reliance on mutual exclusivity, and show that previously acquired language knowledge affects how children weigh socio-pragmatic and lexical cues.