Early child bilingualism: cross-linguistic influence in the simultaneous acquisition of German and English
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 02:24 authored by Katharina Genske
This thesis investigates cross-linguistic transfer in a bilingual German-English child, Kayla, age 2;10 to 5;06 years. The study draws on data from elicited production probes in addition to spontaneous production data in order to provide a robust data set for investigation. Recent literature assumes that bilingual children differentiate their two languages but endorses the possibility of cross-linguistic influence. It has been proposed that cross-linguistic influence can take one of three forms: transfer, acceleration or delay in the acquisition of certain grammatical constructions (Paradis & Genesee, 1996). The conditions under which cross-linguistic influence occurs have been the subject of considerable debate. One prominent proposal by Hulk & Müller (2000) suggests that overlap in the two languages is a key factor for cross-linguistic influence when it involves a grammatical structure influenced by properties at the interface of linguistic modules. Another recent proposal by Jakubowicz (2006) proposes that derivational complexity is the critical factor conditioning transfer. According to Hulk & Müller’s proposal, verb movement is a candidate for cross-linguistic influence because German and English exhibit considerable surface overlap in regards to word order, giving rise to a potential verb second (V2) analysis of both languages. In addition, V2 implicates the C-domain, which interfaces with pragmatic information. On the other hand, Jakubowicz (2006) does not anticipate transfer of V2 as this involves a derivationally more complex structure. The child data presented in this thesis find support for Hulk & Müller’s proposal. The study focuses on an investigation of the child’s simple negative sentences and interrogatives, both of which potentially expose transfer of V2 properties to English. The current data reveal that the child’s development of German is similar to monolingual peers, while her English exposes crosslinguistic influence. At the first stage, the V2 property is transferred to English, resulting in non-adult like utterances such as *’That opens not’ (KAY, 2;11 years) and *’What wants you eat?’ (KAY, 3;06 years). Second, raising finite main verbs from V to C (via I) in English causes acceleration in the proportion of Inflection in the child’s utterances. In a later stage, the child’s negative sentences conform to the early productions of monolingual English speaking children. The child produces sentential negation exclusively with the adverbial form not, which is consistent with negation in German. This permits later productions such as *’It don’t goes this way’ (KAY, 4;01 years). The child is considerably delayed in the acquisition of the head form of negation (‘n’t’) and consequently use of dosupport and use of negative auxiliaries such as doesn’t.