Variability, accuracy, and cross-linguistic transfer in bilingual children speaking Jamaican Creole and English

Annika J. Canta, Sandy Abu El Adas, Karla N. Washington, Tara McAllister

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Due to the lack of normative data about bilingual speech development and limited availability of diagnostic tools optimised for this population, bilingual children under consideration for speech-language services are at an elevated risk of misdiagnosis. In the absence of validated assessment tools, speech-language pathologists may use measures of accuracy and variability of speech production to diagnose suspected speech sound disorders in bilingual children. Research in general motor development suggests that variability and accuracy may trade off in the course of maturation, whereby movement variability spikes before the transition to a more mature stage of motor control. Such variability-accuracy tradeoffs have been described in monolingual speech development but are understudied in bilingual populations, where cross-linguistic transfer occurs. This study aimed to examine variability, accuracy, and cross-linguistic transfer in the speech of 20 bilingual children speaking Jamaican Creole and English. We hypothesised that children who showed higher accuracy in their productions would also exhibit more variable speech, indicating a variability-accuracy tradeoff. The Word Inconsistency Assessment from the Diagnostic Evaluation of Articulation and Phonology was administered to measure accuracy and variability in the English context, where misdiagnosis is likely to occur. Contrary to our hypothesis, we observed that individuals with higher accuracy tended to be less variable in their productions. Future research should examine longitudinal trajectories of accuracy and variability and consider a more culturally-appropriate definition of ‘accuracy’ in documenting bilingual speech sound development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)436-453
Number of pages18
JournalClinical Linguistics and Phonetics
Issue number4-6
StatePublished - 2023


  • Jamaican Creole
  • Variability
  • accuracy
  • bilingual speech development
  • cross-linguistic transfer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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