Relative clause attachment preferences in early and late Spanish-English bilinguals
Previous research on the interpretation of ambiguous relative clauses among bilinguals has suggested that a single attachment strategy is employed with both languages and that this preference is determined by language exposure (Dussias & Sagarra, 2007). However, most prior studies had targeted late bilinguals, so the present study sought to determine whether exposure is also critical with early bilinguals such as heritage speakers. Twenty-three heritage bilinguals and a comparison group of 21 late Spanish-English bilinguals completed off-line binary choice measures in both languages. The late bilinguals patterned with participants from prior research, showing a similar attachment preference in both of their languages. The heritage bilingual participants, however, exhibited distinct relative clause attachment preferences in each of their languages. Thus, it seems that early bilinguals can be more likely to use language-specific sentence comprehension strategies in each language, despite greater exposure to the majority language, which is more in line with a two-processor model of bilingual sentence comprehension.