Bilinguals Are Not Two Monolinguals in One Head Essay

2287 Words May 25th, 2015 10 Pages
The bilingual is not two monolinguals in one person

Early studies on bilingualism have spread the idea that bilingualism was a disadvantage, that it might help developing anomalies (Pichon and Borel-Maisonny, 1937) or deteriorate children’s intelligence (Eichorn-Jones: 1952). From the 1970s onwards, more extensive and in-depth studies have discredited this idea that bilingualism was cognitively damaging and have shown the complexity and the specific characteristics of bilingual acquisition. Among these fundamental research, we can find Volterra & Taeschner (1978), Grosjean (1989), Romaine (1989), De Houwer (1995) and Genesee (1996), to name but a few. These research have highlighted the fact that Bilingual First Language Acquisition
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Bilinguals therefore follow the same ‘learning schedule’ as their counterpart monolinguals, but with some particularities. For example, according to Maneva and Genesee (2002:8), bilinguals tend to integrate sounds from both languages when they babble, due to a widened input of languages. Another particularity would be the fact that ”bilingual children produce translation equivalents from the time they first begin to speak” (Pearson, Fernández & Oller, 1995), whereas monolinguals follow the principle of mutual exclusivity (Genesee and Nicoladis: 2006, 7). This means that the quality of their vocabulary differs from the one of monolinguals. Bilinguals will have different words to designate the same object or concept whereas monolinguals will only have one word. Thus, bilinguals have a different approach to what language is and to how it can be produced.
The fact that bilingual children exhibit the same rate of morphosyntactic development as monolingual children is another similitude. Bilinguals acquire ”language-specific properties of the target languages early in development”, which are matching those of monolingual children of the same age (Genesee and Nicoladis: 2006, 4). Let’s analyse how children structure their sentences. Monolinguals seem to be aware of some parameters of their language early on. For example, they know whether they should put the head of

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