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Crosslinguistic influence and language dominance in older bilingual children



The point of departure of this study is the well-known hypothesis according to which structures that involve the syntax–pragmatics interface and instantiate a surface overlap between two languages are more vulnerable to crosslinguistic influence than purely syntactic domains (e.g. Müller and Hulk, 2001). In exploring the validity of this hypothesis for later stages of bilingual acquisition, the study aims to establish whether crosslinguistic influence occu only in one direction, i.e. from English to Greek, which structural factors can account for the directionality of crosslinguistic effects, and whether language dominance plays a role in determining the occurrence and the strength of these effects in older bilingual children. Experimental data are presented from 32 English–Greek eight-year-old simultaneous bilinguals – 16 Greek-dominant living in Greece and 16 English-dominant living in the UK – and monolingual control groups. A number of syntax–pragmatics interface and narrow syntax structures were investigated and the results showed that both types of structures were found to be selectively vulnerable to crosslinguistic influence in the predicted direction, but only in the grammar of the English-dominant bilinguals.


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Address for correspondence Efrosyni Argyri, Linguistics and English Language, School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, University of Edinburgh, 40 George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9LL, UK E-mail:


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This study was supported by two research studentships awarded to the first author by the UK Economic and Social Research Council, and the College of Humanities and Social Science at the University of Edinburgh. Many thanks to Mits Ota, Ludovica Serratrice and Barbora Skarabela for comments on earlier versions of this paper. Special thanks are due to all the participants who took part in the study and especially to the children, their parents and the teachers of the Hellenic Schools in the UK.


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Crosslinguistic influence and language dominance in older bilingual children



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