Crosslinguistic influence on the syntax/pragmatics interface: testing the intuitions of older Greek-German bilingual children
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Panagiotatou, Zoi Eleni
The aim of the present study is to test whether structures belonging to the syntax-pragmatics interface, which have been found to cause difficulties to younger bilinguals with different language combinations, are still vulnerable to crosslinguistic influence in older Greek-German bilingual children at approximately 13 years of age. A further aim was to examine the role of language dominance and the extent to which this factor can account for the differences found. Experimental data are presented from 30 Greek-German bilingual children growing up in Greece, 15 dominant in Greek and 15 in German. These two groups are compared to the control groups of age-matched monolingual children and adult speakers of Greek. The structures tested are the use of null and overt subjects in [-topic shift] conditions in Greek and the interpretation of anaphora when either a null or an overt pronoun is used in two constructions, forward and backward anaphora. The first structure was tested with the use of elicited production data and acceptability judgements and the latter with a picture verification task. The performance of the different groups of speakers was found to be variable, depending on the structure examined; the German-dominant bilinguals were found to differ to a bigger extent from the monolingual controls compared to the Greek-dominant bilinguals, suggesting that dominance and input are two factors which play a decisive role in determining the linguistic performance of bilingual children. Finally, an explanation based on the different processing abilities of the two groups of children is also taken into consideration.