The acquisition of dative alternation by German-English bilingual and English monolingual children

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Abstract

The vulnerability of the syntax–semantics interface in simultaneous bilingual first language acquisition is still up for debate; while some scholars have found crosslinguistic transfer at this interface, others found no such influence. To determine which kinds of syntax–semantics interface phenomena may be vulnerable, this study examines the acquisition and use of dative alternation by German-English bilingual children and adults compared with English monolingual children and German and English monolingual adults.

The study shows that bilingual children interpret and comprehend dative constructions in English like their monolingual peers but their production of dative constructions in German is influenced by English. This suggests that syntax–semantics interface phenomena relating to the representation of verbs’ objects are vulnerable to influence. However, bilingual adults perform like monolinguals in both languages. These results suggest that any indeterminacy in the use of dative alternation in the adult state is due to L1 attrition rather than incomplete L1 acquisition.
LanguageEnglish
Pages252-284
Number of pages33
JournalLinguistic Approaches to Bilingualism
Volume5
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

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syntax
semantics
language acquisition
vulnerability
Dative Alternation
language
Syntax/semantics Interface
Dative Constructions
Bilingual children
Incomplete
Verbs
Attrition
Bilingual First Language Acquisition
L1 Acquisition
Cross-linguistic Transfer
Language
Peers
Indeterminacy
Vulnerability

Cite this

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title = "The acquisition of dative alternation by German-English bilingual and English monolingual children",
abstract = "The vulnerability of the syntax–semantics interface in simultaneous bilingual first language acquisition is still up for debate; while some scholars have found crosslinguistic transfer at this interface, others found no such influence. To determine which kinds of syntax–semantics interface phenomena may be vulnerable, this study examines the acquisition and use of dative alternation by German-English bilingual children and adults compared with English monolingual children and German and English monolingual adults.The study shows that bilingual children interpret and comprehend dative constructions in English like their monolingual peers but their production of dative constructions in German is influenced by English. This suggests that syntax–semantics interface phenomena relating to the representation of verbs’ objects are vulnerable to influence. However, bilingual adults perform like monolinguals in both languages. These results suggest that any indeterminacy in the use of dative alternation in the adult state is due to L1 attrition rather than incomplete L1 acquisition.",
keywords = "syntax-semantics interface, dative alternation, simultaneous bilingual first language acquisition",
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