The acquisition of determiners in bilingual German-Italian and German-French children
University of Hamburg
This study is concerned with the acquisition of determiners in bilingual children acquiring German simultaneously with a Romance language (French/Italian). It has two major concerns: (i) to shed more light on the interplay between language influence and language dominance and (ii) to examine the relation between forms and functions. Bilingual data is especially suited for this purpose, as bilingual children have been argued to dispose of two grammatical systems, while having only one cognitive system. Thus, we may expect similarities in the acquisition of functions but the acquisition of forms should mirror language specific patterns. The analysis, which is based on a large sample of bilingual data, indicates that things are far more complex. The grammars of a bilingual child are in contact and influence each other.
Contrary to general belief, such influence may be of a positive nature, anticipating syntactic acquisition in one language. It is further argued that language dominance is not the only factor that determines language influence. The book adopts the perspective of Chomskyan Universal grammar, but it contains an empirical study of the acquisition of article functions, discussing whether formal and functional acquisition interact or represent two completely independent processes. The book provides a comprehensive overview of relevant theoretical and empirical work and contains numerous illustrative examples of small children’s linguistic capacities.
ISBN 9783895869969. LINCOM Studies in Language Acquisition 17. 246pp. 2006.