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The Role of Lexical Acquisition in Simultaneous Bilingualism

This thesis addresses a central issue within the field of Bilingual First Language Acquisition (BFLA) by exploring the extent to which the two languages can affect each other during development. The aim of this work is twofold. Firstly, it proposes a particular formalisation of the acquisition process which is based on a set of assumptions that are mostly drawn from standard linguistic theory. It then argues for a theory of the acquisition of lexical properties that is based on the interaction between two higher level systems. The first of these is a system dedicated to organising the developing lexicon into paradigms while the second is an informationally monotonic updating system whose role is to add newly acquired lexical information to those items that are not yet fully developed.
It is then argued that this model can accommodate transfer effects as an inevitable consequence of BFLA. Given that the lexicon of a bilingual child is larger than that of monolinguals, the updating mechanism has a wider field of application and therefore - besides over-generalisation - transfer effects will also obtain. An important consequence of this claim is that the only difference between a monolingual and a bilingual child lies in the domain within which the updating mechanism applies. The fact that language production in bilingual children differs from that of monolinguals does not force the postulation of special bilingual strategies but can be accounted for by appealing to the very two aspects that monolinguals and bilinguals do not have in common, namely the input and the number of developing lexical sets.
A substantial part of the thesis is dedicated to evaluating the empirical coverage of this model. This involves discussion of data from case-studies as well as experimental work both old and new.

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10 INTRODUCTION This thesis investigates some of the fundamental issues within the field of bilingual first language acquisition, the area of research that studies the linguistic development of children who are exposed to two languages from birth. Various studies on bilingual first language acquisition (henceforth BFLA) have investigated the possible ways in which the language system deals with being exposed to input from two different languages. A particular phenomenon that has been central to BFLA, and the one which will be the focus of this thesis, is that of “transfer” or “interference” effects. These are cases where bilingual children use apparent literal translations, where lexical items from one language are structured as they would be in the other. The following is an example from a German-Italian bilingual (from Volterra and Taeschner 1978): 1. Lisa will nur Schuhe dunkelbraun (Lisa 3;6) Lisa wants only shoes brown The sentence in (1), which is ungrammatical in adult German, features the exact syntactic structure of Italian, Lisa’s other L1. For decades, this phenomenon was the subject of much debate between two major theories that arose from the psycholinguistic tradition: the Separate Development Hypothesis (Genesee 1989, Meisel 1989, among others) and the Single System Hypothesis (originally developed by Volterra and Taeschner 1978). While the former claimed that the two languages develop completely separately from day one, the latter defended the idea that the child develops a so-called “hybrid system” which is a combination of the two target languages. Perhaps surprisingly, most of the work done within these two traditions showed virtually no interest in issues concerning the architecture of language or the acquisition process. Researchers focused almost exclusively on whether the child does or does not

Tesi di Dottorato

Dipartimento: Department of Phonetics and Linguistics

Autore: Marco Tamburelli Contatta »

Composta da 243 pagine.


Questa tesi ha raggiunto 722 click dal 04/02/2008.


Consultata integralmente una volta.

Disponibile in PDF, la consultazione è esclusivamente in formato digitale.