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Bookmark and Share Paper 1054

Functional-Lexical Code-Mixing Patterns as Evidence for Language Dominance in Young Bilingual Children: A Minimalist Approach
Kenton Todd Spradlin, Juana Liceras, and Raquel Fernández
298-307 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


In this paper we take up the issue of language mixing by young children in bilingual first language acquisition. We specifically investigate what we term 'functional-lexical' mixings, defined as constituents involving a functional morpheme from one of the child's two languages and a lexical morpheme from the other. Using data from three case studies on the simultaneous acquisition of English and Spanish, we show that, in mixings where there is a switch between a Determiner and a Noun, the children in all three studies exhibit a systematic preference for the Spanish Det + English N pattern over the English Det + Spanish N pattern. To explain this preference, we offer a reinterpretation of the notion of language dominance which is situated within the Minimalist Program. We propose that, within a given constituent, the bilingual child will come to favor the functional morpheme which has a more explicit realization of uninterpretable features. This preference, we argue, represents the dominant language for that specific mixing pattern. Thus, in functional-lexical mixings involving a Determiner and a Noun, the Spanish/English bilingual child will prefer the Spanish Det regardless of his/her proficiency in either of the two languages, since the Spanish DetP projection requires that the features [+number] [+gender] be checked, while the English Det encodes only the feature [+number].

Published in

Proceedings of the 6th Generative Approaches to Second Language Acquisition Conference (GASLA 2002): L2 Links
edited by Juana M. Liceras, Helmut Zobl, and Helen Goodluck
Table of contents
Printed edition: $340.00