9 May 2012
Venue: Room 408 (DALSL meeting room), Arts 1 (Building 206)
Host: Malin Ågren, Lund University
It has often been claimed that tapping children’s abstract knowledge in terms of their spontaneous language production systematically under-represents their actual knowledge of grammar (Hendriks & Koster 2010). Previous findings in simultaneous and successive bilingual French-speaking children reveal that they have great difficulty producing subject-verb (SV) agreement in number (Prévost 2009). These children overuse the dominating pattern of the first conjugation (-er verbs), in which the singular/plural alternation in third person is not phonologically distinguishable. This phenomenon results in omissions of the marked form of third person plural in many irregular verbs. This study was designed to investigate the relationship between production and comprehension of French SV-agreement in different groups of child learners.
In this paper, elicited production data are compared to results from a comprehension test where the number distinction of the subject was masked so that the learners had to rely on verb-endings only. Swedish/French simultaneous and successive bilinguals (n=28), aged 5 to 10 years, are compared to age-matched French monolinguals (n=30). The results indicate that comprehension of SV-agreement clearly precedes its production in both groups of children. A significant effect of age, learner group and verb type is found in production data whereas comprehension data only reveal an effect of age and verb type. These results are discussed in the light of previous studies and in relation to age of onset and amount of exposure in different groups of children as well as the characteristics of various agreement patterns in French.