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Bilingual innovations: Experimental evidence offers clues regarding the psycholinguistics of language change*



Sustained interaction between a bilingual's two languages can be a first step toward diachronic language change. We describe two investigations that explore this by examining how bilinguals process innovative syntactic structures in their first language. In the first investigation, a sentence recall/sentence matching task, bilinguals and monolinguals exhibited differences in their tolerance of expressions of induced motion, which vary in acceptability between the two languages (Portuguese and English). In the second investigation, a priming methodology was employed to induce bilinguals to produce in their first language (Spanish) innovative constructions modeled on the second language (English), using materials where the alternation is shared between the two languages (voice, reciprocal) or not (dative). The two investigations provide a window into how languages interact in bilinguals, inducing tolerance of ungrammaticality which, we will argue, could lead to long-term novel representations in the linguistic competence repositories.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Eva M. Fernández, Queens College, City University of New York, 65-30 Kissena Blvd. Flushing, NY 11367 USA


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Part of this research was supported by a grant from the CAPES Foundation, Brazilian Ministry of Education. We thank the audiences at Prosas Psicolinguísticas, at the II Encontro Internacional do GT de Psicolinguística da ANPOLL, and at the Crosslinguistic Priming in Bilinguals Workshop, for excellent feedback when early versions of this paper were presented. We are also greatly indebted to Gerrit Jan Kootstra and Pieter Muysken, as well as to the anonymous reviewers, for comments that have much improved this paper. Agustina Carando is currently at the University of California Davis.



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