Referent re-introduction as the locus of cross-linguistic influence: An investigation of referential choice in Japanese-English bilingual children

Thematic Section: Japanese-English bilinguals in flux

attrition, referential choice, crosslinguistic influence, vocabulary, form similarity

Satomi Mishina-Mori, Rikkyo University, Tokyo
Yuri Jody Yujobo, Tamagawa University, Tokyo
Yuki Nakano, Tokyo Kasei University
Investigations on children’s narratives suggest that selecting appropriate forms to re-introduce a referent can be challenging and thus slower in development compared with referent maintenance, as it requires integration of factors such as the distance from the prior mention, the ambiguity as well as the pragmatic predictability of the referent. Accumulation of studies suggest that syntax-pragmatics interface is likely to induce cross-linguistic influence (CLI), however, few studies have considered the impact of processing complexity in different discourse contexts. If referent re-introduction requires integration of more pragmatic information than maintenance, we may expect more interaction between the two languages. A few studies provide supportive evidence for this claim, but the analysis is limited to null-argument language. We test this hypothesis by analyzing Japanese-English early bilinguals’ narratives in both languages. 12 early bilingual teens as well as monolingual peers in each language told narratives using „Frog, Where are you?” as well as a speechless video clip in Japanese and in English separately. Linguistic devices children used to re-introduce and maintain the topic are compared with those of their monolingual peers to detect any cross-language effects. Preliminary analyses reveal that in Japanese, bilinguals used significantly more noun phrases than monolingual peers for referent re-introduction, but not for maintenance, which suggest that re-introduction context may be more vulnerable to influence. In English, although the use of null argument was not confirmed, children used more pronouns than monolinguals in the same context, which could be interpreted as an indirect influence from Japanese using non-explicit forms reflecting difficulty in lexical/semantic processing. The results indicate that CLI mainly occurs in the re-introduction context, suggesting that contexts that involve more complex processing is more vulnerable to influence.