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English questions, Spanish structure

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Abstract

Bilingual children separate their two languages from the beginning of development, yet there are signs of grammatical influence between their languages in highly constrained contexts until age 5 or later. While much syntactic ‘interlinguistic influence’ is marked by word order interference, this study considers novel data from Spanish-English bilinguals that show that their acquisition of English wh-questions is accelerated relative to that of their monolingual peers. I explain these data as resulting from a sharing of structure between Spanish, in which the CP is independently acquired early, and English, which requires that projection for its target form; the operations required to derive this utterance type in each language inform the disparity in their acquisition by monolinguals, and similarly the absence of this disparity in bilinguals. In light of this account, I reevaluate a guiding supposition of bilingual acquisition research that bilinguals possess two separate grammars, proposing a closer relationship between a child’s two languages.

References

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