Comparing the role of input in bilingual acquisition across domains

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Amount of exposure has been observed to affect the linguistic development of bilingual children in a variety of domains. As yet, however, relatively few studies have compared the acquisition across domains within the same group of children. Such a comparative approach is arguably essential to gain a more complete understanding of input effects in bilingual acquisition. Most studies in this area concentrate on the acquisition of vocabulary and grammar/morphosyntax; the bilingual acquisition of linguistic properties involving the interaction between syntax and semantics remains under-investigated. The present study seeks to address these gaps by examining – within the same group of English/Dutch bilinguals – the acquisition of linguistic properties taken from two different domains, namely gender-marking on definite determiners, a morphosyntactic property of Dutch with a considerable lexical component, and the acquisition of meaning restrictions on different word orders (scrambling), a property involving both compositional semantic and syntactic processes. The results show input effects for gender but not for scrambling. This is argued to be in line with approaches to acquisition which assume scrambling to constitute a poverty of the stimulus problem, but problematic for those approaches where input plays a more central role.


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