French-English bilingual children’s sensitivity to child-level and language-level input factors in morphosyntactic acquisition

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This chapter presents three studies from a research program investigating how French-English bilingual children’s morphosyntactic acquisition is influenced by child-level input factors such as bilingual versus monolingual learning, and variation in home input among bilinguals, as well as language-level input factors such as the token/type frequency and distributional consistency of morphosyntactic constructions. Two existing studies from this program found sensitivity to these input factors in 4-year-olds’ acquisition of past tense morphology in both French and English (Paradis, Nicoladis, Crago, & Genesee 2011) and in 6-year-olds’ acquisition of bound and free verb morphology in English (Paradis 2010). A new study reported in this chapter examined the French morphosyntax of bilingual 6-year-olds as compared to 11-year-old bilingual children and 6-year-old monolingual French-speaking children. Children were given both elicitation and grammaticality judgement tasks probing their abilities with French direct object clitics and a control structure, definite articles. Similar to the previous studies, differences between monolinguals and bilinguals, and among bilinguals, varied according to home input factors and morphosyntactic construction; however, most differences were neutralized in the older bilingual group. The final section discusses results from all three studies that point to the combined influence of multiple sources of input variation on bilingual morphosyntactic acquisition.


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