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Socioeconomic status and its impact on early bilingual language development: A North-South perspective

This multi-university project will yield comparable data from the Global North and South on factors influencing language acquisition in young bilingual children.

Profile picture of Michelle. She wears a black t-shirt, a blazer and smiles.

Michelle White (photo: Nadia Frantsen/UiO)

About the project

This project describes and compares the influence of socioeconomic status (SES) and language socialization practices on early bilingual language outcomes in Norway and South Africa. The study design allows for the collected data to be comparable across the two countries.

Children from low SES backgrounds often have lower language skills and perform more poorly than their peers, and this is apparent already at 18 months of age (Fernald et al., 2013). Research suggests that SES affects the quantity and quality of language input that a child receives, but this becomes more complex in bilingual children (Sorenson Duncan et al., 2020). When research is done with bilingual children, it is important to consider the language environment and socialization practices in the home (Bergelson et al., 2018), along with SES factors that are suitable (De Cat, 2020; Gatt et al., 2020).


Caregivers of bilingual toddlers from Norway (Norwegian-Polish) and South Africa (Afrikaans-South African English) will fill in questionnaires about their children’s language abilities as well as the SES of the family and their socialization practices. This will be done in collaboration with the PolkaNorski project (University of Warsaw, OsloMet and University of Oslo) and Stellenbosch University.


  • To investigate the relationship that SES and child socialization practices have with language abilities
  • To determine which measure of SES is the best predictor of language abilities, and whether it is common across Norway and South Africa


Bergelson E, et al. (2019) What Do North American Babies Hear? A large scale cross corpus analysis. Dev Sci.22

De Cat C (2020) Socio-economic status as a proxy for input quality in bilingual children? Appl. Psycholinguist. In Press

Fernald A, Marchman VA, & Weisleder A (2013) SES differences in language processing skill and vocabulary are evident at 18 months. Dev. Sci. 16

Gatt D, Baldacchino R, & Dodd B (2020) Which measure of socioeconomic status best predicts bilingual lexical abilities and how? A focus on four-year-olds exposed to two majority languages. J. Child Lang. 47

Sorenson Duncan T, Paradis J (2020) How does maternal education influence the linguistic environment supporting bilingual language development in child L2 learners of English? Int. J. Biling. 24


2021 - 2023

Published Dec. 29, 2021 4:07 PM - Last modified Jan. 21, 2022 10:21 AM