The Acquisition and Processing of Spanish and Portuguese Morphosyntax
  • ISSN 0213-2028
  • E-ISSN: 2254-6774
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This study assesses the scope of the Crosslinguistic Influence (CLI) hypothesis’ predictions with regard to early bilingual acquisition. To this end, we analyze longitudinal corpus data from four bilinguals attesting the acquisition of subjecthood (null versus overt; preverbal versus postverbal) and the pragmatic adequacy of early null and overt subjects in a null-subject language (i.e., Spanish) in combination with a language differing in its pro-drop parameter setting (i.e., English). Our results indicate that CLI barely affects the development of subjects in the null-subject language at the initial stages, namely at the outset of null and overt subjects, and in turn support the Separate Development Hypothesis. Our bilingual cohort patterns with their Spanish-acquiring monolingual peer in that both groups display comparable proportions of null subjects as well as acquisitional trajectories of null and overt subjects at the early stages of acquisition. Much like monolinguals, bilinguals begin to produce preverbal and postverbal subjects concurrently. The bilingual children and the monolingual child of this study actually produce extremely high rates of pragmatically appropriate covert and overt subjects, which are for the most part target-like from the start, thus pointing to the absence of CLI effects. In light of monolingual and bilingual data, the paper also revisits the hotly debated issue of the ‘no overt subject’ stage of Grinstead (1998, ), its existence in child Spanish being questionable.


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