Woods, Rebecca (2015) The acquisition of dative alternation by German-English bilingual and English monolingual children. Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism, 5 (2). pp. 252-284. ISSN 1879-9264

The vulnerability of the syntax–semantics interface in simultaneous bilingual first language acquisition is still up for debate; while some scholars have found crosslinguistic transfer at this interface, others found no such influence. To determine which kinds of syntax–semantics interface phenomena may be vulnerable, this study examines the acquisition and use of dative alternation by German-English bilingual children and adults compared with English monolingual children and German and English monolingual adults.

The study shows that bilingual children interpret and comprehend dative constructions in English like their monolingual peers but their production of dative constructions in German is influenced by English. This suggests that syntax–semantics interface phenomena relating to the representation of verbs’ objects are vulnerable to influence. However, bilingual adults perform like monolinguals in both languages. These results suggest that any indeterminacy in the use of dative alternation in the adult state is due to L1 attrition rather than incomplete L1 acquisition.

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