Dislocations in French and English bilingual children: An elicitation study.

Coralie Herve, C. Hervé, L. Serratrice

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Dislocations in French-English bilingual children: A priming studyPriming studies have shown that syntactic representations in adult bilinguals may be shared across languages when there is a substantial degree of structural overlap. In two experiments we investigated whether the representation of left dislocations is shared in English-French bilingual children.A dislocation is a construction where a phrase, typically a Noun Phrase, appears at the periphery of the sentence and is co-referential with a pronoun (e.g. Le lion, il court/The lion, he is running). Dislocations are the pragmatically optimal way to encode sentence topics in French; in English the use of dislocations to signal topicality is considerably more limited and optional (Notley, Van der Linden, & Hulk, 2007). Our hypothesis was that English-French bilinguals would be primed to use pragmatically sub-optimal dislocations in English as a function of their exposure to French.Thirty-eight English-French bilinguals (mean age 5;7) in France and in the UK participated in two picture-description priming experiments, one in each language. Twenty French monolinguals (mean age = 5;9) and 20 British monolinguals (mean age 6;0) were also included as controls. The amount of exposure to French was measured by a parental questionnaire (Krott et al., 2010) and used as a predictor. In both experiments we manipulated the construction in the prime: NP+VP (Le lion court/The lion’s running), Left Dislocation (Le lion, il court/The lion, he’s running) and Right Dislocation (Il court, le lion/He’s running, the lion). The proportion of Left Dislocations was our dependent variable. In French, all children had a strong preference for Left Dislocations regardless of priming condition and amount of exposure to French. In English, both priming condition and exposure to French were significant. As predicted, only bilinguals were primed to produce Left Dislocations and the frequency positively correlated with amount of exposure to French.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationhost publication
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jun 2013
EventChild Language Seminar - University of Manchester
Duration: 24 Jun 201325 Jun 2013


ConferenceChild Language Seminar
CityUniversity of Manchester


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