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Language Acquisition and ChangeA Morphosyntactic Perspective$
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Jurgen Meisel, Martin Elsig, and Esther Rinke

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780748642250

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748642250.001.0001

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Acquisition in multilingual settings: Implications for explanations of change

Acquisition in multilingual settings: Implications for explanations of change

(p.137) Chapter 6 Acquisition in multilingual settings: Implications for explanations of change
Language Acquisition and Change

Meisel Jurgen M.

Elsig Martin

Rinke Esther

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter investigates whether multilingual acquisition is more likely to trigger structural change than monolingual development. Research on bilingual acquisition reveals that this is not the case when two or more languages are acquired simultaneously. Children exposed to two language from birth differentiate grammars from early on, proceed through the same developmental phases as monolinguals and attain native competence in both languages. If, however, age of onset of one language happens at around age 4;0 or later, the acquired grammatical knowledge differs from that of L1 speakers, and this also concerns grammatical core properties. Thus, successive bilingualism is a source of transmission failure, and child or adult L2 learners are possible agents of change. L2 speakers can also trigger change if they provide input for L1 children, although this is not an instance of transmission failure, for the triggering cues are present in the primary linguistic data. Historical examples show that situations do exist where L2 learners exert influence on the speech community of their L2. In sum, acquisition research shows that parametric change happens less frequently than is assumed in historical linguistics. This is corroborated by reanalyses of alleged parametric changes, demonstrating that these do not actually involve parameter resetting.

Keywords:   Simultaneous bilingualism, successive bilingualism, transmission failure, child/adult second language learners, L2 speakers as agents of change

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