"The dog see the queen": Investigating Optional Infinitives in Multilingual Children
Tulloh Lucy Undergraduate Dissertation 2014.docx (1.377Mb)
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Children acquiring English as a first language go through a stage of optionally producing non-finite verb forms in ungrammatical contexts. This is often referred to as the optional infinitive stage of language development. This study investigates whether multilingual children aged between 3 and 5 years old produce more optional infinitives than their monolingual peers, in line with a constructivist account of first language acquisition (e.g. Gathercole, 2007; Paradis, 2010). The results showed that multilinguals did not differ significantly from the monolinguals, and so we were unable to directly support a constructivist account of first language acquisition. It is argued, however, that some effects of language-dominance might have been present, and so it is not possible to refute the constructivist account. What the results did show, however, was that ungrammatical primes were an effective method for eliciting optional infinitives in children, which was interesting given previous conflicting evidence (e.g. Pickering & Branigan, 1998; Ivanova et al., 2012). In addition, some interesting linguistic structures produced by participants are discussed as part of the wider question of language development.