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Crosslinguistic influence in bilingual language acquisition: Italian and French as recipient languages

  • Natascha Müller (a1) and Aafke Hulk (a2)


In this paper we want to compare the results from monolingual children with object omissions in bilingual children who have acquired two languages simultaneously. Our longitudinal studies of bilingual Dutch–French, German–French, and German–Italian children show that the bilingual children behave like monolingual children regarding the type of object omissions in the Romance languages. They differ from monolingual children with respect to the extent to which object drop is used. At the same time, the children differentiate the two systems they are using. We want to claim that the difference between monolingual and bilingual children concerning object omissions in the Romance languages is due to crosslinguistic influence in bilingual children: the Germanic language influences the Romance language. Crosslinguistic influence occurs once a syntactic construction in language A allows for more than one grammatical analysis from the perspective of child grammar and language B contains positive evidence for one of these possible analyses. The bilingual child is not able to map the universal strategies onto language-specific rules as quickly as the monolinguals, since s/he is confronted with a much wider range of language-specific syntactic possibilities. One of the possibilities seems to be compatible with a universal strategy. We would like to argue for the existence of crosslinguistic influence, induced by the mapping of universal principles onto language-specific principles – in particular, pragmatic onto syntactic principles. This influence will be defined as mapping induced influence. We will account for the object omissions by postulating an empty discourse-connected PRO in pre-S position (Müller, Crysmann, and Kaiser, 1996; Hulk, 1997). Like monolingual children, bilingual children use this possibility until they show evidence of the C-system (the full clause) in its target form.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Institut für Romanistik, Universität Hamburg, Von-Melle-Park 6, D-20146 Hamburg, Germany. E-mail:


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The paper is a revised version of our contribution to the 23rd Boston University Conference on Language Development (November 1998). We would like to thank the audience for useful comments. We are also indebted to three anonymous reviewers and to Pieter Muysken for valuable comments. Thanks to Erica Thrift for correcting our non-native English.


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Crosslinguistic influence in bilingual language acquisition: Italian and French as recipient languages

  • Natascha Müller (a1) and Aafke Hulk (a2)


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