Bilingual first language acquisition: the nature of the weak language and the role of the input
La Morgia, Francesca (2011) Bilingual first language acquisition: the nature of the weak language and the role of the input. PhD thesis, Dublin City University.
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This thesis investigates the development of the weak language in early bilingual
language acquisition and its results are based on longitudinal and experimental data
from 4 Italian-English bilingual children and their parents.
The purpose of this thesis is twofold: firstly, to present a new method to assess weak
language development and the role of the input in bilingual first language
acquisition; secondly, to determine whether there is a relationship between input,
weak language development and the acquisition of new information structure.
The factors included in the analysis of the weak language are rate of acquisition,
production of target-deviant forms, vocabulary, MLU and discourse pragmatics. The
results are summarised in the Weak Language Scale. The results are further tested by
examining longitudinal and experimental data which are used to test the hypothesis
that children who develop Italian as a weak language have difficulty processing
subject inversion structures, which require a high processing load due to the
interface between syntax and pragmatics.
The results of the Weak Language Scale are then compared to those of the Input
Scale, which represents the amount of qualitative and quantitative input each child
has been exposed to.
The final results show that the input plays a major role in bilingual first language
acquisition and it has an effect on weak language development. The findings also
suggest that linguistic properties at the interface between syntax and pragmatics are
harder to process for children who develop Italian as a weak language.
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