E3 Prosodic Constraints on Phonological and Morphological development in Bilingual First Language Acquisition
Principal Investigator: Prof. Dr. Conxita Lleó
Assistant Investigators: Aleksandra Zaba, Marta Saceda Ulloa
In this period, we will continue to address the following main goals:
a) to determine the internal and external factors of the interaction between the phonological systems of the two languages,
b) to explain the manifestations of the interaction, such as increased speed of acquisition, delay of acquisition, and transfer,
c) with respect to transfer, to specify the influence of the complexity of the categories,
d) to complement the production data with perception data about the development of complex categories.
To reach these goals, we plan to compare the data of the children we have worked with so far with the data of other, monolingual and bilingual children. The criteria for comparison will be the ones we have developed previously to measure the development of early production. These criteria will allow us to set up profiles for the normal development of German and Spanish in monolingual and bilingual children. So far, we have examined a part of the monolingual data from PAIDUS and of the longitudinal bilingual data gathered in Hamburg. We plan to continue developing the profiles, and to complement them with the cross-sectional data that we have recently been gathering in Madrid.
In addition, in this period we plan to observe some of the phenomena at later stages of development. For instance, we plan to look at VOT after the age of 3, since only then can we observe Spanish pre-voicing, which is acquired late. Moreover, we plan to continue the investigation of marked categories such as vowel length, using data of German monolinguals and bilinguals. A study of the acquisition of vowel length by bilinguals raised in Germany showed that they lagged slightly behind monolinguals (about six months). However, this lag was overcome quickly. The comparison of the data of German monolinguals with the children from Madrid regarding vowel length will shed some light on the influence of the surrounding language. To determine the representation of categories such as long vs. short vowels in the child lexicon, we will conduct perceptual tests with bilingual children in Madrid or Barcelona. Given that there is no vowel length contrast in Spanish, it is expected that the children who grow up in Madrid or Barcelona will show a longer delay in the acquisition of German vowel length than children who grow up in Hamburg.
Our previous results show that mastery of Spanish develops differently in bilinguals than in monolinguals. In some cases this leads to an incomplete competence of Spanish phonology. These results have led to the implementation of the transfer project T4, whose goal is to develop the means to help improve the acquisition of Spanish in such bilingual children. Note however that we do not yet have a complete picture of the development of all the children. The latter will be necessary to fully explain why in some cases competence is incomplete. Children who were exposed to two languages from birth but who do not manage to achieve a complete competence of Spanish need to be compared with children who were exposed to one of the two languages later, i.e. at age 3 or 6. If both groups showed a comparable level of phonological competence, it would show that the amount of input is as crucial as the age at which acquisition begins.
Most interaction occurs at the grammatical interfaces. We also want to investigate the prosodification of function words such as articles and pronouns in both languages, since they show different prosodic characteristics depending on the language. The investigation of the macro-array of prosody can be complemented in this way in the structural micro-array.
Annual data collection from bilingual children in Hamburg; cross-sectional data from children who started acquiring Spanish later in life; qualitative and quantitative analyses mainly based on phonetic transcription of child utterances, often supplemented by acoustic analyses; perceptual tests addressing the formation of categories.