Total Conceptual Vocabulary

What is Total Conceptual Vocabulary (TCV)?

TCV refers to the number of concepts that a child has mapped to language.  Bilinguals may use their languages in different contexts, and their vocabulary may reflect this. They may have a word in one language and not the other, or two words for the same concept (one in each language). TCV reflects how many concepts a child has mapped to words.

 

Why assess TCV? 

TCV is an appropriate assessment component because:

  • TCV takes into account a bilingual’s vocabulary in both languages and is a better reflection of vocabulary knowledge than monolingual tests.
  •  For typically developing, bilingual, preschool-aged children, their TCV should be similar to that of a typically developing monolingual child. You can compare the TCV to the Spanish and English monolingual norms to see and use this information as a piece of your converging evidence. 

How to assess TCV

Administer a vocabulary checklist in each language such as the MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventories (CDI’s) and the MacArthur-Bates Inventarios del Desarrollo de Habilidades Communicativas. Each can be filled out by the parent, teacher, or whoever has the most knowledge of the child’s language. The TCV can be calculated by comparing the lists and calculating how many concepts the child has a label for. For example, if the child has a word for ‘house’ (regardless if it is ‘house’ or ‘casa’) they get credit for having a label for that concept. Do not count a concept twice if they have a label in Spanish and English.

Example: Ramon’s scores on the CDI in Spanish and English yielded the following information:

 

English word

used by child

Spanish word

used by child

concept

mapped

apple

“apple”

does not say

yes

bread

does not say

“pan”

yes

cake

does not say

does not say

no

candy

“candy”

“dulces”

yes

cheese

“tees” for ‘cheese’

“queso”

yes

food

does not say

“mida” for ‘comida’

yes

juice

does not say

does not say

no

water

“wawa” for ‘water’

“awa” for ‘agua’

yes


Ramon has a TCV of 6 (out of the 8 concepts shown here). We give him credit for each concept he has a label for, but do not give 2 credits when he has a label in both languages. Note that some words are not adult targets, but he still receives credit for these productions.

How to interpret TCV findings

Check to ensure that the vocabulary items are appropriate for the child’s speaking contexts and that they would have had exposure to the words. Also, consider if there are common concepts in their life that they do not have a word for. For example, if a 4 year-old child drinks milk at home, not having a word for “milk” in their home language may suggest a word learning difficulty.

For typically developing, bilingual, preschool-aged children, their TCV should be similar to that of a typically developing monolingual child. You can compare the TCV to the Spanish and English monolingual norms to see if this is consistent with other assessment findings.