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Minimalism and bilingualism: How and why bilingualism could benefit children with SLI*



We begin with the hypothesis that all people are “bilingual” because every language contains ingredients from several grammars, just as English exhibits both an Anglo-Saxon and a Latinate vocabulary system. We argue that the dominant grammar is defined by productivity and recursion in particular. Although current evidence is sparse, in principle, for a child who shows Specific Language Impairment (SLI) in a bilingual environment, richer modules in one grammar may help trigger more obscure modules in another language. Thus, if one language has a rich case system, it may help a child see an impoverished case system in another grammar. Examples from prepositional systems, wh-movement, recursive possessives and others are discussed. In general, a second language can be beneficial to the SLI child in the acquisition of both languages. Minimalism offers a level of abstraction where these cross-language connections can most naturally be stated.


Corresponding author

Address for Correspondence Thomas Roeper, Linguistics Department, South College, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003


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I would like to thank the participants of the Bilingualism and SLI conference in Jerusalem, and Sharon Armon-Lotem in particular, and the anonymous reviewers for various helpful comments.



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Minimalism and bilingualism: How and why bilingualism could benefit children with SLI*



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