Many studies have suggested that the concept of “number” is relatively independent from linguistic skills, although an increasing number of studies suggest that language abilities may play a pivotal role in the development of arithmetic skills. The condition of bilingualism can offer a unique perspective into the role of linguistic competence in numerical development. The present study was aimed at evaluating the relationship between language skills and early numeracy through a multilevel investigation in monolingual and bilingual minority children attending preschool. The sample included 156 preschool children. Of these, 77 were bilingual minority children (mean age = 58.27 ± 5.90), and 79 were monolinguals (mean age = 58.45 ± 6.03). The study focused on three levels of analysis: group differences in language and number skills, concurrent linguistic predictors of early numeracy and, finally, profile analysis of linguistic skills in children with impaired vs. adequate numeracy skills. The results showed that, apart from the expected differences in linguistic measures, bilinguals differed from monolinguals in numerical skills with a verbal component, such as semantic knowledge of digits, but they did not differ in a pure non-verbal component such as quantity comparison. The multigroup structural equation model indicated that letter knowledge was a significant predictor of the verbal component of numeracy for both groups. Phonological awareness was a significant predictor of numeracy skills only in the monolingual group. Profile analysis showed that children with a selective weakness in the non-verbal component of numeracy had fully adequate verbal skills. Results from the present study suggest that only some specific components of language competence predict numerical processing, although linguistic proficiency may not be a prerequisite for developing adequate early numeracy skills.
Early literacy and numeracy skills in bilingual minority children: towards a relative independence of linguistic and numerical processing / Bonifacci, P; Tobia, V; Bernabini, L; Marzocchi, Gm. - In: FRONTIERS IN PSYCHOLOGY. - ISSN 1664-1078. - (2016). [10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01020]