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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: December 2014

5 - The order of constituents: subject position in English and Spanish



The position of the subject with respect to the verb has attracted much less attention from scholars of monolingual and bilingual acquisition than the position of the object and the verb. Research on word order involving the alternation subject verb object (SVO) versus subject object verb (SOV) is abundant (De Houwer 1990 and Meisel 1986 are pioneer studies of this issue). By contrast, research on the position of the subject in bilingual first language acquisition is almost non-existent as far as I know, even though this grammatical aspect differs in many language pairs, as it does in English and Spanish. Indeed, subject position challenges the language comprehension and production skills of the English-Spanish developing bilingual.

Similarly to the issue of subject realization, the position of the subject in English declarative sentences presents only one option: preverbal; while in Spanish there are two options with respect to the verb: preverbal and postverbal position. Thus, the study of the placement of subjects by bilinguals in a basically fixed SVO-order language, English, and a language with flexible word order, Spanish, allows us to examine hypotheses about crosslinguistic interaction and about what makes a language vulnerable to influence from another language. This is related to the overall goal of the book, which is to find out the effect that different degrees of exposure to and use of English and Spanish have on some aspects of two siblings’ emerging grammars.