01/06/2007 Linguistics Psychology
DOI: 10.1016/J.PRAGMA.2006.10.001 SemanticScholar ID: 145708364 MAG: 2078096486

Referential cohesion in the narratives of bilingual English-Italian children and monolingual peers

Publication Summary

Abstract This study is a cross-linguistic investigation of the nominal expressions used to introduce, re-introduce and maintain reference to animate characters in the Frog Story in English and Italian. Narratives were collected in both languages from a group of twelve simultaneous English-Italian eight-year-old bilinguals, and from two groups of age-matched English-speaking and Italian-speaking monolingual children. Overall the bilingual children used language-specific referring expressions in each of their languages. Similarly to the monolingual children the bilinguals predominantly used noun phrases to introduce new referents and to re-introduce old referents. More interestingly, the bilingual children were able to use overt and null pronominals in language-specific ways. Pronominal forms were used significantly more often in English to re-introduce and maintain reference, while in Italian null pronouns were significantly more frequent than in English in these two contexts. The only significant difference between the two groups was found in referent maintenance in object position in Italian where the bilingual children used a significantly larger proportion of noun phrases. These results show that simultaneous bilingual children can achieve a high degree of language-specific discourse-pragmatic competence in both of their languages, although there may be predictable areas in which their performance differs from their peers.

CAER Authors

Avatar Image for Ludovica Serratrice

Prof. Ludovica Serratrice

Reading University - Professor of multilingualism

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