Structural complexity reduction in English-French bilingual children’s event encoding

Engemann, Helen

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URN: urn:nbn:de:bsz:180-madoc-644116
Document Type: Article
Year of publication Online: 2023
Date: 21 June 2023
The title of a journal, publication series: Journal of Child Language
Volume: tba
Issue number: tba
Page range: 1-25
Place of publication: Cambridge
Publishing house: Cambridge University Press
Publication language: English
Institution: School of Humanities > Mehrsprachigkeitsforschung (Juniorprofessur) (Engemann 2017-)
Pre-existing license: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Subject: 400 Language, linguistics
Keywords (English): simultaneous bilingual development , syntactic complexity , caused motion
Abstract: Previous research on the L1 acquisition of motion event expression suggests that mapping multiple semantic components onto syntacticunits is associated with greater difficulties in verb-framed than in satellite-framed languages, because the former require more complex structures (using subordination). This study investigated the impact of this language-specific difference in English-French bilingual children’s caused motion expressions. 2L1 children (N = 96) between four and ten years and monolingual English and French children (N = 96) described video animations portraying caused motion events involving multiple semantic components. Results revealed reduced rates of subordinate constructions in bilinguals’ French descriptions, and more so in older than younger children, while English responses aligned with monolinguals. Semantic density of responses strongly predicted syntactic complexity, but exclusively in French. These asymmetric findings indicate a task-specific syntactic relief strategy and are discussed in the context of theoretical claims about universal biases of event encoding and bilingual-specific optimisation strategies.

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ORCID: Engemann, Helen ORCID: 0000-0001-5937-2819

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