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
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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].
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
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